By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The Clinton Foundation and its partner Africa Improved Foods (AIF) are helping to source soybeans from farming communities in Malawi for the AIF market in Rwanda, supporting farmers’ livelihoods and strengthening local agricultural economies.
This partnership began in the 2018/2019 season, where over the course of four months, AIF purchased 2.2 million pounds (997 metric tons) of soybeans produced by the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) farming communities in Malawi, generating more than USD408 000 for the farmers.
This season, despite challenges due to Covid-19, AIF purchased nearly double the volume of soybeans as the previous season at above Malawi market prices. In total, nearly 4 million pounds (1793 metric tons) were produced by farmer cooperatives and marketing groups in Malawi, generating USD773 536 for the AIF market. This injection of revenue going directly into the hands of farmers is a critical step in building not only trust between farming communities and the markets but also resilient and sustainable regional trade.
Paradzai Thompson, sourcing manager agricultural commodities for Africa Improved Foods Rwanda says that the partnership with CDI has resulted in AIF purchasing an additional 1855MT from other traders in Malawi generating an additional USD850 864 in foreign currency for the country. These soya beans are used to produce supplementary nutritious foods that are used to fight malnutrition in thousands of children.
Alexis Mucumbitsi, Head of Nutrition at the National Early Childhood Development Program (NECDP) points out the importance of their collaboration with AIF with regards to providing fortified foods to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children in a bid to fight malnutrition. “AIF’s fortified, blended foods are distributed to vulnerable families with pregnant and lactating women as well as children from 6 to 24 months grouped in Ubudehe 1 across all the 30 districts and the same is distributed to pregnant and lactating women and children (6-24months) in Ubudehe 2 in 13 districts with a high prevalence of stunting,” says Mucumbitsi.
Ubudehe is a socio-economic stratification system in which the most vulnerable population is supported by social protection schemes. Currently, there are four categories with the first category designated for the poorest in society.
Farming communities in Malawi face a myriad of value-chain related challenges including access to improved productive inputs, low access to flexible financing mechanisms, and limited access to markets offering premium prices for high-quality commodities that are produced in large quantities, consistently.
For farming communities to fully benefit from this success, it is critical that they become better connected to markets while producing high-quality crops that can be sold at a premium. Traditionally, smallholder communities have struggled to meet the quality demanded by commercial markets, but through intensive community-centred training – CDI’s Community Agribusiness (CAB) approach – smallholders in Malawi have been able to meet the strictest quality requirements.
For nearly a decade, CDI has worked across Rwanda, Malawi, and Tanzania. In Malawi, CDI has focused on increasing the cultivation of soybeans as an alternative to traditional cash-crops such as tobacco. By supporting the transition to soybeans, CDI has been able to build more sustainable and alternative revenue streams for smallholder communities.
Taziona Mchira, community agribusiness markets manager for CDI Malawi says that the partnership between AIF and CAB farmers demonstrates the vast possibility of integrating smallholder farming communities into structured markets. “As the partnership follows a demand-pull approach, it becomes easier and more efficient to identify critical bottlenecks impeding the flow of commodities from the producers to the off-taker. During the whole process, CDI plays a pivotal role to anchor and facilitate these transactions. Sustainability of this work is CDI’s priority, and the team is working on empowering and training these communities to carry out similar high-level market partnerships independently of us. We have identified an opportunity to strengthen the information flow and consistent consultations between parties and are looking forward to prioritizing that in the next season,” says Mchira.
CDI farmers have expressed appreciation for the benefits they reaped from collectively aggregating their high-quality commodities which enabled them to participate in structured market arrangements. CDI aims to build a strengthened and independent cooperative-led marketing structure that can demonstrate sustainability and resilience of smallholder-farmer inclusive value-chains.
This partnership between the Clinton Development Initiative and Africa Improved Foods continues ex-President Clinton’s commitment to inclusive economic growth and community resiliency. It serves as a testament to the impact that collective action across industries and borders can have on the future of farming communities.
Africa Improved Foods (AIF) Rwanda is a joint-venture between the Government of Rwanda and a consortium of Royal DSM, Dutch development bank (FMO), DFID Impact Acceleration Facility managed by CDC Group plc and International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. It is the leading manufacturer of high quality and nutritious complementary foods in Africa. http://www.africaimprovedfoods.com
The Clinton Foundation is built on the simple belief that everyone deserves a chance to succeed, everyone has a responsibility to act, and that we all do better when we are working together. http://www.clintonfoundation.org