AR-INVC bridging activity inception June2016
Africa RISING - INVC Bridging Activity
13 - 14 June, 2016
- Get inputs on content and form for finalizing full proposal
- Introduce partners to the project (to get buy-in)
- Develop work plans and budgets for each component in readiness for year 1 of implementation
List of Participants (click to download)
Day 1:13 June, 2016
08:30 Opening of workshop – David Chikoye, IITA
08:35 Welcome and background of the workshop – M. Banda, USAID
08:45 Objectives of the workshop – I. Hoeschle-Zeledon, IITA
08:50 Presentation of agenda for the day and introduction of participants – Facilitator
09:20 Overview of Africa RISING in Malawi – R. Chikowo, MSU
09:35 Overview of INVC in Malawi: achievements and lessons learnt – L. Martinez, INVC
10:00 Break/Group photo
10:30 Presentation of AR-INVC concept note – M. Bekunda, IITA
11:00 Group discussion by components (value chains, productivity) to gather input for full proposal
ooooo- Agricultural productivity group 1
00000 -Agricultural productivity group 2
00000 -Value Chains group 3
12:00 Report back by groups work
13:00 Lunch break
14:00 Presentation of work plan and budget template (activities and indicators) – E. Gilbert, Project Consultant
14:15 Group work to develop work plan and budget for year 1 (by component)
16:30 Closed Session: Discussion of transition period/End of day 1 for those not involved
Day 2: 14 June, 2016
08:00 agenda day 1 – Facilitator
08:05 Introduction of group work by Elon
08:10 Group work on work plan development (activity, sub-activity,)
10:30 Report back from groups
11:30 Plenary discussion and feedback
01:30 Introduction of group work - Mateete
01:35 Group work on indicators
02:35 Report back on the indicators
03:35 Way forward and closing
04:00 Break / End of Workshop
Opening remarks - David Chikoye, Director IITA Southern Afrcia Regional Hub
- Agriculture is very important for Malawi ( 80% of the population is engaged in agriculture; agriculture contributes to 36% of Malawi’s GDP).
- Despite availability of yield enhancing technologies, most of the small holder farming systems still has low productivity.
- Key perennial challenges remain to be: production, marketing and food quality. There are also emerging problems associated with climate change. The 2015/2016 cropping season was adversely affected by climate change. The country experienced a severe drought. Hence depending on seed availability, some farmers had to plant 3 times, while others did it 6 times.
- What can we do to provide solutions for farmer? One of the options is to diversify into other crops like legumes. Some of them are climate resilient (climate smart), other contribute to resolving the problems of malnutrition (a significant problems that still prevails in this country). Like other crops, legumes also share the same problems of low productivity like the main crop (maize).
- To provide solutions through this project, partnership is going to be a key element that all of us must aim for. We are all in the same boat trying to resolve the problems faced by small holder farmers. Each of us comes here with different experiences/expertise/interests; but all are focused on how we can implement this project to address the challenges faced by small holder farmers in Malawi.
- This is therefore a serious meeting where we need your input to come up with a proposal that is going to make a difference in the life of small holder farmers.
Welcome remarks and background to bridging activity - Martin Banda, USAID Malawi Country Mission
- It is encouraging to see a representation of a broad array of partners taking part at this meeting today.
- In 2012, we launched our Feed the Future flagship program called “Integrating Nutrition in Value Chains” implemented by DAI. It was supposed to be 2 year activity and was extended and now it was scheduled to end at the end of October, 2016.
- Since we launched this flagship program, we started on a good note. We managed to do much of what was planned and we saw that we made a lot of progress in terms of increasing productivity for small holder farmers on the value chains that we are working on: groundnuts , soybeans; but also on nutrition which was the other objective of this flagship program.
- But then, nature was not on our side for two consecutive seasons, this ended cropping season (2015/2016) and the one before (2014/2015). There were a number of unfavorable events that took place. This resulted to farmers losing their seed. We had hoped that farmers will build their seed beds; they would have seeds to grow the next year.
- By now actually most of the farmers we are working with under INVC should have had their own seeds. But because of the unfavorable weather, most of these farmers don’t have the seed. We are therefore planning a “follow on activity to INVC” and this activity runs the risk of starting right where we were before (when most farmers didn’t have seed). Then we decided that we need to do something about it because the “follow on activity” is in the process of procurement right now, and the procurement process often is very long. No one can also tell when the award will be made.
- Now if INVC ends at the end of October, 2016 then we have a gap between INVC and the follow on activity, then we probably would land in the same situation as we were in 2012. During that time we almost lost the rainy season because you know it takes a lot of effort to source seed, make sure the seed gets to the target farmers.
- Our experience tells us that it is not easy and so we don’t want to run the same risk experienced in 2012. Because of that we decided that we have a bridging activity and to have a bridging activity there are various options: You can compete it out, and when you compete it out it takes very long to have a final decision. But fortunately there is a provision that you can use a public organization to make the procurement process faster.
- So that is the reason we decided that we partner with a public organization like IITA which already has existing mechanism in the country (via Africa RISING project) . This made it very easy for us going into that negotiation process to establish whether they can handle what we wanted to do (bridge INVC activities) and the follow on activities. So this is the reason why we find ourselves here with IITA, DAI and some partners to look at what it is that worked very well under INVC and we’d want to roll into this bridging activity? And what are some challenges and lessons learnt from INVC (DAI) so that we don’t repeat the same things, but we take those things that worked very well. INVC was focused the competitiveness of value chains and nutrition outcomes, but this bridging activity will mainly be focused only on value chains.
- It’s therefore really about maintaining the gains made so far under INVC with the value chains for groundnuts and soybeans. The nutrition aspect will probably be focused on in the follow on activity. For our colleagues from the district offices, we would like as much as possible to work with the systems that we have in the districts and we are not intending to have a completely separate activity, so let’s work together. You have the capacities in terms of extension and in many other areas and this bridging activity will have some resources that you can use to reach the farmers that you are already working with – we are all working with the same set of farmers. Collaboration and partnership will therefore be a key stone of this bridging activity and looking on into the future to the follow on activity.
Meeting objectives - Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, Africa RISING program manager IITA
- USAID invited IITA about 2 months ago, to come up with a proposal for the continuation of INVC project activities. They advised that the focus of this bridging activity will therefore be on value chains of soybean and groundnut so that farmers can achieve more income from these crops and improve the productivity of these crops and of course associated with them is the productivity of maize.
- The Africa RISING project has worked in Malawi for the past 5 years and we have gotten some good results of how to increase the productivity of these crops in a sustainable manner. So this bridging activity can really benefit on our experience from Africa RISING.
- So the Africa RISING Malawi team with additional colleagues from IITA drafted a concept note which we want to discuss and present to you today. We’d like to get feedback from you because you have previously been involved in implementing the project. We therefore believe that your views and inputs will ensure we don’t repeat what has been done, we don’t start from scratch and we don’t repeat mistakes made. For this project also we still have questions that we would like to also get answers on from all of you. We would also like to introduce the Africa RISING project team to you and also get to know each other because we are likely to be working together in the future.
- The final objective for this two days is to develop a detailed project work plan that elaborates what will be done, when , expected outputs and who will be responsible for it as well as what it would cost.
Presentation by Regis Chikowo (Africa RISING Malawi Project Coordinator) - Overview of Africa RISING in Malawi
Presentation by Lourdes Martinez (INVC Deputy Chief of Party) - Overview of INVC in Malawi: achievements and lessons learnt
Questions & Comments elicited by USAID, Africa RISING and INVC presentations
There are many FTF project in the country, but from the INVC presentation it has been alluded that collaboration/partnership between USAID –funded projects is a problem. What mechanism is there for ensuring collaboration by the projects in Malawi?
Answer (M. Banda, USAID):
A couple of mechanisms exist; firstly, every quarter we have a partners meeting where all the partners come together to talk about how they may collaborate as well as sharing information. Secondly; we have an activity that just started last November called - Strengthening Agriculture and Nutrition Extension. This activity basically is aimed at supporting the Ministry of Agriculture and in particular the department of extension services to implement the government the government of Malawi’s agriculture extension policy. What the policy says is that there has to pluralism and emphasis on demand led extension services. And within that policy the government decided to formulate a way of operationalizing this policy and they have a system in place called – the District Agriculture Extension Services System. Within there in each of the districts there is supposed to be a stakeholder panel where all the service providers at district level are supposed to come together and listen to what farmers are saying is their demand and strategize together how to respond to that demand. So this ensure everybody, beyond even the feed the future projects is supposed to know what other are doing and know exactly how to avoid unnecessary overlaps and how they can take advantage of the strengths that exist in other organizations, but also more importantly to ensure that there is equitable delivery of services in the districts.
Considering the observation from INVC presentation, there seems to be a lot of price volatility with soyabean. What happens to the nutrition component because we’ve seen cases where, when the price is so good, farmers sell all the legumes and leave nothing for food? At the end of the day they end up being hungry.
Answer (R. Chizimba):
It is true that nutrition is a big challenge. What we did as a project was to work on a communication and messaging to farmers. Our key message to them always was: “Sell Some, Keep some”. And using radio programs we would announce this message. Something else we do is also encourage communal banking of seeds. So it’s generally a difficult situation but we try to manage through social and behaviors change communication.
For how many years did you do the seed subsidies? And when do you decide that now are farmers ready to be weaned off the subsidy program?
Answer (L. Martinez):
If I had a second attempt to implement these activities again, I would start slowly. So this first year we worked with 1,000 kwacha subsidy; then next year work with 2,000 kwacha until you actually get to the actual cost of the seed. Farmers need to understand that seed is an input, that needs to paid for it. So right now, most still don’t think of seed as a cost. So my suggestion would be to do it gradually and not all at once.
Answer (E. Sibale):
I have observed in places like Mchinji District that there was a huge increase in hectarage of Soyabean and some of the beneficiary farmers we gave seed to go back to the market to add on what we had given them (seed) because they are now considering soyabean production as a commercial venture and not only for food. So they have expanded hectarage and they are going to the market to buy more seed too.
What model were you using to distribute seed in the course of the INVC project?
Answer (L. Martinez):
In the traditional seed distribution model you publish the RFQ “request for quotations” and it takes time. So to do that the bridging activity needs to start the process today if the aim is to have seed in September. We worked very closely with the mission and Martin (Banda) helped us a lot to get things ready. We worked with STAM (Seed Traders Association of Malawi) and also with the MISST project to get things ready and this took quite some time so be ready for that. After we got all the seed we worked through the agro-dealers who were the ones now charged with delivery of the seed to farmers. So STAM has a list of certified agro-dealers that they were working with and so we just picked the same people and worked with them. And then we told our nutrition assistants and our promoters to let farmers know. Because we have a very low percentage of beneficiaries with access to cellphones, so it makes it necessary for this message to be delivered to them face to face. All our staff had to go to the field and assist with the process. That was the hard part of it, but at the end of the day people were happy.
I would like to hear from several of the INVC colleagues based on your gap analysis and experience, what training do you think the farmers need most?
Answer (E. Sibale):
I would say soil and water management. Most of the Malawi soils are depleted and on top of that we have climate change challenges and if we are to make any significant impact we need to take care of the soils first.
Answer (H. Gaga):
I think focus should also be given to marketing for farmers to sell in groups. But they cannot do that without financial services provided to the groups.
What was the baseline yield from the INVC intervention and what is the current yield (it was mentioned that yield was increased by 63% on the demo plots)? Answer (E. Sibale):
When we distributed seed this was (in December, 2015), we had planned to have normal demos but with the change of approach we didn’t have time to arrange for normal site demonstration plots. So after we had already distributed seed we had to go (in January) and establish plots from the care group beneficiaries which had established well. And we sampled and tagged some fields which according to our recommendations of double rows and spacing; we selected a sample and then tagged them for a demo. These were the plots in which we have gotten all the data on how they produced and yield at the end. In some of the fields we are still waiting for groundnut yield data which are still being collected. So to answer the question, yes these can be called demos on farmer’s fields these were the plots which we used as demonstration plots and where the field days have been held. But it was on our beneficiaries’ plots managed by the farmer.
Answer (G. Mzumara): Comparing the yields over the years, soyabean yields have been increasing. But for groundnut, we had a drop in the 2014/2015 season. The yield for soyabean last year was 1.4 t/ha.//
Back to the issue of seed subsidy; (in terms of strategy) which farmers should we ask to pay for seed? Is it every farmer who wants to produce soyabean or groundnuts or only the beneficiary farmers? What is prudent?
Answer (L. Martinez):
I don’t have a correct answer for all the questions, but you are right. We didn’t start straight with the seed subsidy because at the beginning we were promoting community seed bank approach. And we started with the first distribution in the 2013/14 season and the idea was that farmers would have a foundation seed to begin with (they didn’t have anything). And then they would start seed banking at the community level. But this approach didn’t work well because of various reasons. So then we started thinking for alternatives. And we look at the option of supporting the seed suppliers so that they would be the ones doing the distribution/promotion of market driven approaches. So that is how we partnered at the end with MISST. On the issue of paying; provided farmers understand the commercial value of crops like soyabean they are always willing to pay.
Considering the challenges with ascertaining seed quality, how did INVC ensure that what the farmers got from agro-dealers was good quality seed with the correct germination rates etc.?
Answer (L. Martinez): Ensuring good quality seed is a huge problem that we were still grappling with till this moment.
Comment (M. Banda): What we have requested Africa RISING to do is for them to work with the same farmers INVC was working with. So that answers part of the earlier question on seed subsidy.
Comment (P. Okori):I have so far observed 3 things which are in concurrences with some of the earlier information mentioned by L. Martinez. And we’ll need to think critically about these as we determine the way forward with bridging activity:
- The issue of productivity increases is very challenging because the seed industry in this country is actually subsidized by the CGIAR system. People don’t say it, but it is a reality. The bulk of the seed INVC produced was actually bought from IITA and ICRISAT. Its however the wrong seed for farmers; this is the foundation seed which should be bought by seed companies, produced 2-3 years down the road. And so we sell very high value seed and giving it at a loss to farmers because they are certified seed. So profitability is actually questionable if you go back in to the actual values of investments that were made.
- From the adoption studies shown by L. Martinez on her presentation; farmers are not very keen on gross margins. I think within that the labour use-efficiency plays the biggest role on what makes sense for farmers. The mistake we make as scientists is that the farmers will also think like us in terms of gross margins, profits etc. They are good, but we need to think more in terms of household labour budget.
- Until we begin dealing (in part) with the volatility in the policy structure which affects both supply and demand of the market. This year for example there will be no seed because the market is so volatile! So it is hard to invest in a market where there is low reward for things like aflatoxin seed. So unless this contradiction is addressed then the impact of the improved technologies we propose will continue to be limited.
Presentation by Mateete Bekunda, Africa RISING Chief Scientist East and Southern Africa - Presentation of AR-INVC concept note
Questions & Comments elicited by concept note presentation
Seeking clarification on the number of beneficiaries used by INVC; do those numbers represent individuals or households?
Answer (G. Mzumara):
The data shared by L. Martinez refers to households. The partners were tracking one beneficiary from one household. So those are individual farmers, but this is equivalent to the number of households.
There is a very asymmetric distribution of who was implementing the project and who was contributing to the success. How do we make sure that in the bridging activity we balance the structure of the partnership out adequately?
Comment (H. Gaga):
There may be a potential challenge in the implementation partnerships in the bridging activity. This is because farmers in some of the implementation areas are NASFAM members while they are not part of the activity/project.
Comment (P. Okori):
After listening to presentation by L. Martinez in the morning, it may be important to think about the 3C approach by USAID, especially the co-location part. We can already see how much synergies can be built with other USAID funded projects for example and the MISST project where the partners are more or less the same. There may some challenges with regards to monitoring and evaluation, but then we have M&E experts to give guidance on that.
Feedback from year 1 work plans presented by the groups
- Why can’t publication of scientific papers be included as an output?
- The issue of seed supply needs to be articulated much better.
- MISST experience on the issue of seed supply to partners under the 3C’s can be considered? They first identify potential seed companies who have worked with MISST to produce certified seed. And then next they identify potential agro-dealers who work with those seed companies. The project then supplies seed to the project through the seed companies and the farmers will access the seed through the agro-dealers (who are already certified by STAM).
- The issue of seed quality is also a key element that can’t be overlooked. One of the big challenges experienced so far has been how to ascertain the seed quality. Malawi Sees Services Unit (SSU) which is the body mandated to assess seed quality has challenges that have made it difficult for them to ascertain the quality of seed.
- There needs to be agreement on the seed quality assurance mechanism within the bridging project. This will ensure that a chain of blame game doesn’t emerge regardless of the source of seed.
- Probably within projects like these that are working to improve the whole value chain, if there are challenges with public structures like in this case the SSU. It would be best to also consider including activities to address these capacity gaps within the project. How can we strengthen these public bodies?
Closing remarks and Way forward – H. Zeledon-Irmgard, Africa RISING program Manager
- The next steps are that by tomorrow (15.06.2016); IITA team and Africa RISING colleagues will sit down to compile and reflect again on the inputs received from this 2-day workshop and use them to start revising the final proposal to be submitted to USAID. By Monday (20.06.2016) we will first submit the proposal draft to the IITA management for approval and then a week later we have to submit the full proposal to USAID. There are still a few issues we didn’t touch on like budgets, but well focus on this within the smaller group.
- While we wait for the contract to be finalized and the funds to be submitted, we also expect to continue with further discussions with the partners and clarify details and other discussions with INVC. At the same time we will have to decide on what kind of staff to recruit plus other management tasks to get the project going. We will also have to start negotiating contracts with partners and send them out to the partners.
- The participation by all of you at the workshop was fantastic! I would like to specifically thank the INVC team for being here and providing us all the information needed in a very transparent manner and being here (almost the complete team)! Despite the fact that INVC project comes to an end in October, that doesn’t mean that this is the end of our personal interactions. So we will definitely keep touch with the team from time to time. We also appreciate the high level of interest and commitment already shown by the partners, some working even until late (12:00 am Abbie Chittok sending us input to the work plans!). I also thank USAID for being well represented at this meeting and for answering all our questions to ensure we start of well – so Martin, Laura.
- The start of this bridging activity will surely be rough, but I am certain as we go on it will get smoother. I would also introduce you to Elon who will be the main contact point from this project onwards. He will be based in Chitedze.
- Thanks for Coming and for your active participation!
|AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY (Group 1)||AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY (Group 2)||VALUE CHAIN GROUP|
|Working with local partners such DAES, FUM, CADECOM, NASFAM, Lead farmers, NGO||Profile the structures in the targeted districts
- FUM, CADECOM, Gov’t, (Reprogramming the care group approach)
|Not 40 – 60,000 new households. Leverage on existing list of beneficiaries (from INVC). The data that INVC has provided totals circa 39 000. This does not include the seed fair figures.|
- The bridging activity does not add new beneficiaries.
|Integrating with other USAID founded projects such as MISST, NJIRA and SANN?
- Working with agro-dealers and other seed distribution outlets
|Considering project activities; what role can each partner play based on their strengths?|
|Agro dealers- Make seed available to target beneficiary
MISST - Make seed and improved agronomic practices available to target beneficiaries
|Timing – the idea is continuity and and transition – so there is no “gap”|
- If there are partners that need to continue with certain activities then they need to be able to continue (for example seed procurement is a lengthy process and needs to be in place prior to October.
- Identification and profiling of farmers is time consuming
|Provision of seed
- Provide options in terms of the quantity
|Input suppliers – link farmers with STAM.|
- Access to finance (given a revolving fund of 20 million)
- Training of agro dealers to provide extension services to farmers
|Consider the varieties to be promoted
- Sub-committee to look at pigeon peas-seed sources
|What gaps have you noticed in the concept note that needs to be addressed when writing the full proposal? |