Strengthening Value Chains in Niger
Official name of project: MISOCO
Project years: 2012-2015
Value of project: $864,333
Names of donors and partners: Donor: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa; Partners: Purdue University, INRAN, and Fédérations Fuma Gaskiya and Sa’a.
The majority of households in rural Niger cannot meet their annual food needs. They spend ~70% of their small household budget on food. Production is undermined by post-harvest losses, mishandling of crops, and inappropriate transportation and storage techniques. Physical crop losses due to such mishandling range from 10-20% for most cereals, such as millet and sorghum, and up to 80-100% for cowpea.
In addition, producer organizations, designed to provide services that improve the market position of farmers, suffer from poor operational and financial management, technical knowledge, and access to markets. Farmers and producer organizations do not have agri-business or marketing plans, and ignore essential players in the value chain. The poor quality of their products also lowers the prices they command in local markets. Sector development is further hampered by gender barriers that limit decision-making capacity, access to and control over resources, as well as women’s livelihoods.
In an effort to address the above issues, Catholic Relief Services Niger, implemented Reinforcement of Millet, Sorghum and Cowpea Value Chains in the Maradi, Tahoua and Dosso Regions (MISOCO), a project funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
MISOCO improved the incomes of 15,000 farmers (30% of whom are women) in 150 villages through the establishment and strengthening of value chains for millet, sorghum, and cowpea in the municipalities of Gaya, Tibiri, Tsernaoua, Madaoua, Mayahi, and Gazaoua.
Because women play a vital role in local development, MISOCO helped reinforce women’s capacities and develop their revenue generating activities, with an emphasis on Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC). CRS partnered with INRAN— the National Institute for Agronomic Research in Niger — Purdue University, and two local producer federations (Sa’a and FUMA Gaskiya of Maradi). The project worked through local producer organizations to add value to agricultural commodities and enhance the collective bargaining power of farmer members.
- Empowering Local Institutions: MISOCO’s 150 producer organizations were led through self-assessment exercises to identify areas of weakness targeted for improvement – CRS introduced a performance tool designed by AGRA: the Capacity Performance Index. The project used data to classify organizations according to performance and determine future action with them. 150 producer organizations developed business plans, 8 of which received $30,000 in loans from microfinance institutions allowing them to invest in seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides to increase their production.
- Adding Value: In 2015, MISOCO field agents conducted 194 demonstration sessions on post-harvest storage technology (including PICS bags) for 194 producer organizations and SILC groups. Out of the 6,365 participants 53% were women.
The project also encouraged linkages with a range of key stakeholders in value chains. Other training included federation members, Government of Niger agricultural services agents, PICS bag suppliers, community radio station agents, and potential buyers of agricultural products.
Capacity-building also focused on equipping producer organizations to process, market and sell their produce. Producers were taught how to process millet into degué and cowpeas into beroua through a Training of Trainers approach, giving women new skills to add value to their agricultural products.
- Collective Bargaining: Producer organizations were trained in agricultural marketing in each of the project’s six municipalities. The project successfully facilitated the sale of agricultural produce to the World Food Programme’s local purchase program in 2013 by directly linking WFP and the six unions covering the project intervention zone. This was repeated following the 2014 harvest. Each producer organization signed a contract with WFP through which they sold a total of 729.8 tons of millet and cowpea for a $434,212. Wholesalers, mostly from Nigeria, also bought 583.91 tons for $235,818. In total, between 2013 and 2014, the producer organizations raised $670,030, an increase of 60% for cowpeas and 38% for millet.
Following training of community radio announcers, CRS signed agreements with radios for the collection and broadcasting of agricultural product prices. This helped farmers choose the best times to sell (or continue to store) their stock.
- Following the 2014 harvest, farmers supported by MISOCO sold 436.8 tons of millet, sorghum, and cowpea to the World Food Programme, which empowered producer unions to collectively market their produce and secure higher prices.
- To improve post-harvest storage and reduce losses after the 2014 agricultural campaigns, 5,163 PICS bags were given to new SILC and producer organization members. In total, 1,721 producers – 77% of whom were women — benefitted from this support with three bags each.. Moreover, there was a 242% increase in farmers using improved post-harvest storage methods.
Rabi Tourba, a member of the Gourou Gandji SILC group of Koira Tegui (Gaya), took a monthly loan of 40,000 CFA (francs) to buy rice, cowpeas, and condiments which she used to prepare the food she sold every morning. She earned 20,000 to 25,000 CFA monthly and with her profits she was able to help cover family expenses. Like Tourba, members of producer organizations also benefitted from MISOCO. For example, Ali Alkassoum, the Security General of the “Yarda da Fusa’a” producer organization of Tounfafi (Madaoua), previously used sand to store cowpeas. After the introduction of MISOCO, Alkassoum bought cowpeas for 20,000 CFA, which he stored in PICS bags. He did not suffer any losses and was able to sell them for 36,000 FCFA in the market, bringing the producer organization a profit of 16,000 FCFA per bag. The producer organization had 400,000 FCFA saved in a microfinance account with ASUSU SA in 2014.