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Salute an African Farmer

Join AGRA in Saluting an African Farmer this World Food Day!

Taking on climate change with climate-smart maize seed

Meet Anthony Kieti, former military man turned profitable maize farmer.  
Anthony Kieti, former military man turned profitable maize farmerFrom 2008, when he retired from active military service, Mr Anthony Kieti resorted to faming to eke out a living. Like in most of sub-Saharan Africa, Kieti’s region in eastern Kenya is experiences erratic rainfall caused by climate change.  Year after year saw Kieti making heavy losses after his crop failed, though he faithfully bought seed and invested in labor and fertilizer each season.
Enter Dryland Seed Company, a Kenyan seed start-up supported by AGRA and the KDV4 maize variety. 
“My farm has been transformed, thanks to this new variety that matures faster and yields more than other maize varieties. I am so happy since despite the failed rains, I have something to count on when the harvest season comes,” says Kieti. [More…]

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Innovative scheme making agri-finance more inclusive for women farmers

Meet Beth Kioko, former corporate executive turned successful farmer, in eastern Kenya.
Beth Kioko executive turned farmerAfter opting for early retirement from her corporate job nearly twenty years ago, Ms Beth Syokau Kioko embarked on various business ventures with mixed success.  However, in 2008 she returned to her 10-acre (4-hectare) farm in eastern Kenya, determined to make it a profitable mixed farming enterprise.
Her deep drive to succeed led Kioko to decide to invest in irrigation to ensure she had a year-round water supply for her cow pea, maize, beans and fruit crops. However, she faced a monumental challenge: where was she to get the initial capital required? 
Enter Equity Bank and the innovative microfinancing initiative for agribusiness. 
“I was pleasantly surprised when I qualified for a Ksh 60,000 (US $ 669) loan,” says Kioko. She used the money to implement her farming dreams and today she is a proud producer of top quality cow pea, maize, beans and fruit thanks to this timely and affordable loan facilitated by AGRA. [More…]
Join us in saluting Beth Kioko, a transformed African farmer!

Joining a farmer society brought a new dawn to Mrs Assan Diakite’s farming life

Mrs DiakiteMrs. Assan Diakite is a smallholder farmer in her early 40s. Married with three children, Mrs. Diakite farms on two separate fields of a quarter and a half hectare respectively. Though she has been growing rice, maize and groundnuts, for years, Diakite says farming had not benefited her prior to 2013.
In 2013, she joined Benbadi Toula Farmers Association upon paying a membership fee of CFA 1000, after being urged by her neighbors who were pioneering members.  
Diakite is one of 200 farmers who have benefited immensely from the AGRA-supported cooperative. According to her, she has benefited immensely from the services being rendered by the Association. This includes being trained in: ISFM (optimal use of fertilizers); awareness about pests and diseases (types of pests, how to identify and deal with them); and good agricultural practices (GAP) for the vegetable value chain.  Other services include access to good seed and fertilizer, and access to produce markets. The association has a demonstration plot which is used to train the farmers. 

Before joining the association, we had not enough food to eat with my family. I am so proud of this association since through the support they gave me, I can now comfortably feed my family throughout the year,” says Diakite. (More...)

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Masindi farmers changing their fortunes through partnership building

In Masindi District of western Uganda, mud-built and grass thatched houses are a rare sight, unlike a few years ago.
Masindi farmerToday, most members of this farming community live in brick-walled, iron-sheet roofed houses, as they await Umeme, the electricity distribution company, to connect their houses to the national grid.
Mr. Jos Wamara, the chairman of the Masindi Seed and Grain Growers Association, attributes the improvement in incomes now earned by farmers to the organized grain growing and marketing system facilitated by the Association. The Association in turn has received capacity building support from the Uganda Development Trust (UDET), an AGRA grantee. 
The impact is seen in the numbers: farmers now harvest about 2,000 kg of grain per hectare, compared to the 500 kg they used to produce. Production has improved from 497 tons in 2009 to 653 tons of grain and 119 tons of legumes in 2011. In the first half of 2013, Association members recorded production of 875 tons. The group’s revenue also improved, from a loss of US$ 9,367 in 2010 to a gain of US$ 21,155 in 2011.
“You just need to walk around to see the impact. Our members are earning more, producing more food and living better lives. They are able to pay for healthcare and schooling for their children,” says Wamara. [More…]
Join us in saluting Masindi Seed and Grain Growers Association, transformed African farmers!

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Expanding income streams from improved cassava

Meet Fartima Nhantumbo, enterprising cassava farmer from Mozambique.
Fartima Nhantumbo cassava farmerUntil recently, Ms Fartima Nhantumbo, a cassava farmer from Mahubo village in Mozambique, was a very unhappy woman. This is because her cassava crop failed season after season as it fell victim to the devastating cassava brown streak disease which rendered the tubers worthless – unfit for consumption or processing.  Additionally, she had a limited market for her tubers whenever she was lucky enough to have a reasonable harvest. 
Typically, cassava is consumed in most of Africa by farmers, their families and neighbors either as flour, made from dried and milled tubers; cassava crisps made from chopped and deep-fried tubers; or as boiled tubers.  

Enter AGRA and other cassava value chain actors. 

AGRA, through its Program for African Food Systems (PASS) helped to develop and make available planting materials of a new cassava variety that was resistant to the cassava brown streak virus, thus ensuring that Nhantumbo and other farmers like her could be assured of a bumper crop. Additionally, the AGRA Market Access Program connected the cassava farmers to SABMiller Africa, who were venturing into a new line of cassava-based beers. 

Says Nhantumbo, a mother of nine: “I have one hectare of land under the newly released cassava varieties, which are yielding four times more than the local varieties. For the past two years, this piece alone has made me able to feed my family, send my children to school and take care of other bills that initially were a burden to me.”  

Join us in saluting Fartima Nhantumbo, a transformed African farmer!

Adopting hybrid seed and changing fortunes in Ethiopia

In the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNP), one of the nine ethnic divisions (kililoch) of Ethiopia, Wulchafo Surage, is busy constructing a granary for the first time in his compound in anticipation of a bumper harvest.
The 44-year-old father of five is one of a few smallholder farmers in Ethiopia who have boosted their maize yields by planting high-quality hybrid seeds, and using the recommended amount of fertilizers. 
Hybrid seed uptake in Ethiopia stands at only 10%, particularly amongst the smallholder farmers. As a result, the average yield of maize in Ethiopia stands at two tons per hectare, which is far lower than the potential average of six tons per hectare, depending on the hybrid variety planted, prevailing weather conditions, and the quality of field management. Part of the blame goes to poor access to quality certified hybrid seed by smallholder farmers. 
To bridge this gap, Alemayehu Makonnen, a local seed entrepreneur in the region, is now dedicated to producing hybrid seed as a way of boosting food productivity in the country. Makonnen’s seed firm is supported by AGRA’s Program for African Seed Systems (PASS).  

Farmers are already taking it up.

“I tried out hybrid maize seed for the first time in 2011, after attending a farmer field day at Makonnen’s farm,” says Surage. “I got more maize from a half-hectare piece of land planted to hybrid maize  than that from two and a half hectares planted to non-hybrid seed; so I decided to plant the new variety and apply fertilizer  my whole three-hectare farm in 2012,” he continues. 
This gave him a yield of 18 tons of maize from three hectares, six times more than he had been harvesting before. 
“Many other farmers who have seen my crop have turned to hybrid seeds,” he confirms. [More…]
Join us in saluting Wulchafo Surage a transformed African farmer!

Jumping onto the innovative agri-finance bandwagon for greater profitability 

In the quiet Ziwa village in Kenya’s Trans Nzoia County, Tito Barng’etuny had previously always lived in poverty, growing maize on a one acre piece of land. Barng’etuny was never able to increase his land area due to financial constraints. But in 2012, the 37-year-old farmer, harvested for the first time, 350 bags (90 kg each) of maize from 10 acres, thanks to an innovative finance mechanism that now enables smallholder farmers like him to access credit from commercial banks.
The finance mechanism, known as agri-finance, is an innovative risk-sharing technique pioneered by AGRA and other partners, in collaboration with selected commercial banks in Africa. The initiative has been crucial in convincing commercial banks that lending money to farmers is not as risky as it has been perceived. 
Over five years, thousands of smallholder farmers, like Barng’entuny, in selected African countries have improved their productivity significantly simply because they were able to access financing.

“I used to farm just for my household, but today I can afford to sell my surplus to other lucrative markets and still be left with enough for my household,” says Barng’etuny. (More...)

Join us in saluting Tito Barng’tuny, a transformed African farmer!

Creating ‘millionaire’ smallholder farmers in Uganda

For more than a decade, Charles Openda had been tilling his 40-acre piece of land and planting upland rice with high expectations – a bumper harvest that would transform his lifestyle economically. Though he was preoccupied with this goal, his rice, maize and cassava fields could not yield the anticipated bumper harvest. So, season after season  Openda found it increasingly difficult to provide for his family and dependants.
However, this problem was not only an issue for Openda or his fellow farmers in Papada village, in Tororo region of Uganda. What Openda and other small-scale farmers across the three districts of Tororo, Busia and Numuteba did not know then, was that the problem of poor yields was directly connected to poor soil fertility and the Striga problem – two problems are prevalent in the three districts. 

“At the onset, I thought it was a curse that had befallen my family land, but I later came to learn that it was widespread,” says Openda.

Africa 2000 Network, a Uganda firm, was funded by AGRA to implement interventions to this problem, which included use of approved herbicides to kill the weeds, crop rotation and application of fertilizer and manure to improve soil fertility.
“We are now producing bumper harvests and smiling all the way to the bank,” says Openda who is amazed at how simple interventions like taking care of the soil can turn around the lives of many farmers. The farmer is now able to feed his family and pay school fees for all his eight children, three of whom are pursuing their university education. “What seemed unachievable is now within reach,” says an elated Openda whose current school fees budget is above UGSH 4.5million.
Before AGRA’s interventions, Openda says his 40-acre farm could only yield 8-10 bags of rice, 2 bags of soybeans, 6-8 bags of maize and one bag of cassava. Now from the same land his last harvest yielded 30 bags of rice (UGSH 150,000 per 90k bag), 12 bags of soybeans (UGSH180, 000 per bag), 22 bags of maize (UGSH 120,000 per bag) and plenty of cassava and millet. (More...)
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Grain farmers pooling together for greater profits

Meet a group of former pastoralists turned innovative grain traders
Ramosha GroupPrior to 2010, the members making up the Ramosha Farmers Association, Kisii County in Kenya were struggling pastoralists. The erratic rainfall patterns, dry soils and unforgiving terrain meant that this was a gamble for them most of the time since these conditions reduced the pasture available for their livestock. 
To try and change their fortunes, a few farmers came together to form an informal table banking group (‘chama’ in Swahili), to raise funds for the group to farm as a business. Soon there was a recruitment drive and members started growing green vegetables and potatoes. The group also began buying and reselling farm produce in the area. 
A chance meeting an AGRA grantee – Cereal Growers Association (CGA) in 2009 –  who were launching the ‘Strengthening the Capacity of Smallholder Farmers to Access Markets’ project. This was supported by AGRA’s Market Access Program. 
With the help of CGA, the group of 44 soon leased two empty shops at Ramosha shopping center with a capacity of 30 mt: their first grain-bulking centre. Soon afterwards the group was linked to the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), who gave them a contract to produce 150 mt of grain. The group faced the dilemma of lack of adequate storage. Ever enterprising, they moved to occupy several unoccupied mud-walled shops in a dying trading center. Business quickly picked. 
“In 2010 we sold our 150 mt of maize in the first season to WFP valued at US $39,000. Nearly 28 tons of was uplifted by WFP out of the 90mt awarded,” says Loce Kkapario, executive committee member in charge of stores at Ramosha. [More…]
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