3 Posts authored by: emechael

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A few years ago, President Obama and then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, pledged to “promote sustainable development through high-impact partnerships and local solutions”. They stressed investing in new models for public-private partnerships (PPP’s), which has been a key agricultural development theme for many years. While a traditional PPP is a government service or private business venture that a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies co-funds and operates, USAID has more recently developed the Global Development Alliance (GDA) model. GDAs leverage market-based solutions to advance broader development objectives. When successful, the resulting alliances are both sustainable and have greater impact. GDAs are co-designed, co-funded, and co-managed by all partners involved, so that the risks, responsibilities, and rewards of partnership are shared. They work best and have the greatest development impact when private sector business interests intersect with USAID’s strategic development objectives.


The Feed the Future initiative describes these partnerships as a joint development venture in an area pertinent to food security. Feed the Future and the business creates a public good—such as improved irrigation, seed research, advanced communications, or post-harvest market access—that helps transform the agriculture sector in a developing country or region. The partnership simultaneously helps move the business forward. The most common types of agricultural PPPs either support improved linkages between smallholder farmers and input companies or food processors/traders. For example, Syngenta might work with USAID to develop and distribute improved seed varieties to smallholder farmers through the establishment of agro-input dealers. Alternatively, PepsiCo and Walmart might work with USAID to help farmers with post-harvest handling and storage technologies and practices to improve product quality giving them access to a higher value market. Through collaboration, they can have a greater impact on the business’ bottom line and USAID’s development goals than if they worked alone.



In principle, this makes a lot of sense, especially in an environment of limited financial resources with global poverty and economic hardship. However, there are many challenges in designing, structuring, and operationalizing these partnerships. Maximizing earnings and economic profitability with a focus on increasing productivity, competitiveness, and cost reduction motivate the private sector. Businesses invest where there are opportunities to improve the quality of primary agricultural materials, the cost structure of product and processes, and export potential to high value markets. This can be at odds with the public sector’s motivation towards development goals of economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.


The private sector realizes that public funds can lower the costs and risks of entry into new markets; however, they may find the process of securing funds to be bureaucratic and usage of funds inflexible. In addition, the private sector may value a partnership with a public donor that raises their profile with local national governments. This can help minimize corruption and reduce barriers to entry and can also be painfully slow. Moreover, businesses can be reluctant to share their intellectual/technology rights, trade secrets, and effective practices.


These are just a few of my observations about agricultural public private partnerships. What have others experienced or seen as challenges and difficulties in designing, structuring and operationalizing these partnerships?


Photo, top left: Mike Duke, Walmart CEO and Dan Bartlett Walmart Vice President, with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. Photo by: U.S. Global Leadership Coalition


Written by Matthew Krause, Partnership Development Lead, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation


When creating products aimed at helping smallholder farmers in the developing world, it’s not safe to assume, “If you build it, they will come.”


For people who earn a few dollars a day, investing in a new tool or technology comes with a lot of risk. A marketing strategy with focused messaging and savvy materials is essential to build a trusted brand.


Marketing to the rural poor is challenging. To be effective, we structure our advertising with the local context in mind, whether it’s low literacy rates, varying languages, or the remoteness of agricultural communities. These constraints can be daunting, but despite the barriers, the interest in this emerging market is growing. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of companies large and small in this space. Successful products tend to focus both product design and brand messaging on three simple points:


1) Emphasize the income opportunity.


For most smallholders and small enterprises, the opportunity to increase income is paramount. Testimonials can help potential customers envision how a product can generate income. Testimonials are also more  relatable than complicated calculations of return on investment.


Even a product that doesn’t generate income directly can bring in income if it provides a service that can be rented out. For example, Nokia dominates the cell phone market in the developing world. As of 2011, Nokia accounted for more than 60 percent of mobile users in Africa. They don’t sell the cheapest phone, but they’ve focused on designing and promoting features that help their customers rent or share a phone, like the ability to have multiple contact lists and a call tracker that enables an owner to pre-set cost or time limits on phone calls.


2) Show ease of use.



Products targeting smallholders and rural entrepreneurs should be easy to use and maintain. Marketing materials should reinforce this value. Use of simple drawings or photographs can help people understand and become comfortable with a new product.


When Partnering for Innovation grantee Compatible Technology International (CTI) introduced its grain processing tools in Senegal, villagers were given brochures along with in-person demonstrations. Brochures included illustrations showing the simple steps required to use the tools. Because paper and artwork is rare and valuable in these rural communities, the brochures also doubled as posters for families to keep and hang in their homes.


3) Convey quality and reliability.


Product reliability was consistently cited as the number one concern of potential customers in rural Africa when three solar lighting companies were compared in a 2013 study published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The companies found that providing marketing and service plans, backed by product features that showed durability, helped overcome customer concerns.cti.JPG


Quality products must be backed by quality marketing. Even remote, rural communities have been exposed to professional advertising, and shoddy marketing materials don’t inspire confidence in a product. Companies can show they are credible and convey trust by investing in uniforms for sales agents and providing service plans. Even the smallest details in packaging design and the type of paper used in marketing materials can make a big difference.


When you think about it, marketing a product to smallholders and entrepreneurs in the developing world really isn’t all that different than designing for them. Success is rooted in listening to the client, thinking creatively, trying and failing, learning and adapting.


You can learn more about Compatible Technology International’s work with Partnering for Innovation in Senegal in Meet the Grantee and on CTI’s website.


Written by Meghan Fleckenstein, Communications Director and Grants Manager, Compatible Technology International


March 6, 2014. The number of women farmers feeding their households, communities, countries, and regions is increasingly on the rise. But even though we are seeing more women take on roles such as planting, managing, harvesting, and processing household crops, we aren’t seeing them getting the same finance, extension, or decision-making power as men. These access gaps have real consequences: women farmers typically achieve yields that are 20-30 percent lower than men. The FAO estimates that total agricultural output in developing countries could increase by as much as 4 percent if women received equal access to resources. In honor of International Women’s Day, this blog explores two critical technologies for women farmers, including constraints and potential impact on women all over the world.


Drip Irrigation


The drip irrigation difference: Drip irrigation helps farmers get more out of their land by increasing frequency of harvest, improving yields, and building better climate resiliency.


What’s holding women smallholders back? One primary constraint women face in accessing the necessary equipment is cost. Few smallholders can afford to buy irrigation kits upfront; most require some sort of external financing. Because women have historically had limited access to financial services, their ability to invest in equipment, such as drip irrigation, is limited. According to Feed the Future’s Rwanda 2010 Implementation Plan, for example, the majority of women in Rwanda (56 percent) have no access to formal or informal financial services.

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What can be done? In Kenya, Netafim Ltd. is working with Partnering for Innovation to market drip irrigation kits for smallholders through an innovative financing program with Family Bank and K-Rep Bank. The financing component specifically targets women clients (50 percent) and offers a lower down payment and fewer collateral restrictions than ever before. In addition, the local extension provided by Amiran helps mitigate risk of crop failure.


How women are affected: Studies from 45 developing countries show that women are responsible for water collection in 76 percent of households, which frequently takes more than an hour each day (WHO/UNICEF). Efficient use of water through drip irrigation can drastically cut down on the time they typically spend simply transporting water. In addition to quality improvement, saved time, and climate resilience, drip kits can increase yields for crops like red onions up to 150 percent, offering women farmers a five-year return on investment of 750 – 1,000 percent. Over 100,000 ha of unirrigated cropland in Africa alone presents a significant market opportunity to extend financing for and access to irrigation equipment (Source: International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage).


Information Communication Technology (ICT) Extension


The ICT extension difference: Access to extension is widely regarded as essential for farmers to learn good agricultural practices (GAPs) and technologies that enhance productivity, providing immediate


returns to household income and food security.


What’s holding women smallholders back? In 2010, the World Bank found that extension agents are not serving 80 to 98 percent of women farmers across three developing countries: Ghana, India, and Ethiopia. Women have been underserved by traditional extension due to their childcare responsibilities, limited representation of women among extension agents, and scarcity of free time.


What can be done? ICT is beginning to supplement traditional extension to mitigate some of these

challenges. ICT applications and SMS programs can send seasonal push reminders regarding best practices for weeding, planting, or harvesting. Call centers can field (pun intended) questions about new pests or farm ‘myths,’ and use their question data to target warnings about pest and disease outbreaks to affected regions. Applications can even use photos of pests to help farmers identify their affliction with less guesswork. Some of our partners have already been active addressing constraints for women with ICT extension. Programs like World Cocoa Foundation’s CocoaLink in Ghana use voice messaging to break down literacy barriers for women farmers. In Uganda, the Grameen Foundation provides childcare during residential training for women to learn how to use phones for agriculture and provide extension to their neighbors.


How women are affected: Women are “time poor” compared to men—the World Bank found that rural women are three times more likely than men to work 70+ hours a week. Because of duties in the home and on the farm, they are also not able to travel to trainings. ICT brings training directly to women—they can read or listen to training messages at times convenient to them, and no travel is required.  More than half of women using mobile phones say that ICT has opened up economic opportunities, and women who are not yet subscribers present a $13 billion market opportunity, based on a recent survey by GSMA



To see these and other agricultural technologies that can affect women in agriculture, stay tuned for our upcoming webinars and technical resources.

Written by Liz Caselli-Mechael, Technical Analyst, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation

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