KIN: Knowledge & Innovation Network

The Journal of MCC & MCA Technical Staff

Local Food Security, Global Markets

Reducing Poverty for Artisanal Fishermen in Morocco

The small-scale Artisanal Fisheries Project, a significant part of the $697.5 million MCC compact signed between the governments of the United States and Morocco, is a $120 million effort to reduce poverty among some of the poorest Moroccans: small-scale artisanal fishermen. This investment aims to increase profitability for these fishermen and improve food safety through concerted actions along the fish value chain from landing sites on undeveloped beach fronts to mobile vendors who sell door-to-door to modern market platforms that maintain a variety of quality fish to consumers’ plates. The Artisanal Fisheries Project emphasizes two important and complementary considerations: (1) removing intermediaries between targeted beneficiaries and the final market and (2) ensuring sustainability of fish stocks upon which they depend for their livelihood. A number of critical lessons have emerged from the project, including the importance of leveraging the Moroccan government’s existing expertise, strong and consistent engagement with local stakeholders to avoid land disputes, the need to communicate project benefits in light of competing development demands (e.g., fishing versus tourism), and the added time and costs of enforcing international standards for construction that are outside the typical norm and standards.

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Trade in Indigenous Products Contributes to Food Security in Namibia

Sustainable wild harvesting and trading of indigenous natural plant products (INP) have the potential to contribute to the alleviation of rural poverty, conservation of natural resources and encourage trade with developed markets internationally. In Namibia, 20 percent of the population living in rural areas is considered severely poor. Typically, it is the poorest of the poor living in rural areas who depend on indigenous natural products to improve their food security and are increasingly engaged in the commercialization of these products to improve their livelihoods. Given Namibia’s limited traditional agrarian (crop farming) potential, the diversification of livelihoods provides critical supplementary income to rural communities. Income from INPs is used to buy food during periods when subsistence agriculture is not able to provide sufficiently for rural households. Supporting harvesters in organizing producer groups, which are able to negotiate contracts directly with exporters and manage the resource and its utilization, contributes thus to food security in rural areas. The challenge, on the one hand, is to forge appropriate linkages between producer organizations and international global markets and, on the other, to gain widespread adoption of sustainable harvesting practices. The case of the sustainably harvested devil’s claw approach in Namibia, now supported through the Millennium Challenge Account-Namibia (MCA-Namibia) INP Activity illustrates the relationships between resource conservation, poverty alleviation and the emerging trade of INPs in global markets.

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Evolving markets and Moldova’s transition to high-value agriculture

Moldova has been rapidly losing market share in its traditional Russian fresh fruit export market since independence in 1992. European countries with more sophisticated production and post-harvest capabilities are out-competing Moldova in the low- to medium-value markets for apples and table grapes. Increasingly, Russia’s consumers are demanding premium quality produce where Moldova has a negligible market share. In order to gain Russian market share and diversify into other European markets, Moldova must quickly improve its production and handling practices to match European competitors and meet the rising quality demands of Russian consumers. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) have taken on this ambitious task through the Agricultural Competitiveness and Enterprise Development (ACED) project. The five-year project works with fruit and vegetable producers to improve the quality of their produce and focuses on other weaknesses in the high-value agriculture value chains, including phytosanitary certification, post-harvest infrastructure and market linkages with potential buyers of Moldovan produce. ACED’s strategy to strengthen these value chains is based on more than one year of extensive value chain analysis and end-market study research that examined market entry opportunities for Moldovan produce in targeted export markets. The studies identified the investments necessary for producers and exporters to compete in those markets. The program is in its second year of implementation; thus, it is too early to present findings of ACED’s success in positioning Moldova as a competitive, prominent produce exporter to Russia and in new European markets. However, the experience thus far suggests that making “space” – valuable time and resources – early in project implementation to conduct deep, end-market studies is an effective step to focus and prioritze value chain projects where success hinges on market capture. In Moldova, these end-market studies were used to test and adjust ex ante operating assumptions and guide the tailoring of growth strategies for Moldovan fruit and vegetable exporters. This article reviews the complexities of identifying market opportunities and facilitating entry by Moldovan exporters as well as key lessons-learned thus far in ACED implementation.

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Strengthening Land rights and food security in Mali

The people of Mali are among the roughly 1 billion worldwide who suffer from food insecurity. In 2010, just over 50 percent of the country’s population lived on less than $1.25 per day, and 27 percent of the children under five years of age were underweight. The causes of food security in Mali are intertwined, and include poverty, inadequate supply and political instability. Poverty is especially severe in rural areas, where 80 percent of the population is not earning enough money, or growing enough food, to meet their basic caloric needs on a consistent basis (USAID 2010). The country also suffers from a food supply deficit in terms of national production and trade, inadequate storage to reduce losses and insufficient transport to make food available where needed. Food security problems are  compounded in Mali by political instability, which disrupts food distribution channels and cuts off access. The Malian military overthrew the democratically-elected government in March of 2012. Separatist and Islamic fundamentalist groups controlled the entire northern half of the country and continued their advance until the French military intervened in early 2013. From 2007 to 2012, the Millennium Challenge Corporation supported a major effort to address these causes of food security. The Government of Mali, with MCC financial and technical assistance, implemented the Alatona Irrigation Project in a remote area of the Ségou region of central Mali. The integrated agricultural development project prepared almost 5,000 hectares of irrigated land, allocated the land to farmers and provided them with startup inputs as well as agricultural and financial training. This article describes how key questions about  the project’s land allocation activity that relate to food security were addressed and implemented. Section I provides a short description of the project. Section II examines the land activity. Section III discusses the results and what was learned vis-à-vis food security.

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Rural Land Tenure Security and Food Supply in Southern Benin

As part of the national strategy to remedy food insecurity and promote modern agriculture, Benin undertook a series of donor-assisted projects to strengthen the rights of rural landholders, using the instrument of the rural landholding plan (plan foncier rural or PFR). Selected villages have surveyed and mapped their agricultural land parcels, defined and registered the customary rights of landholders and set up a system to draft, witness and register documents of land transfer, tenancy and use. By creating these documentary proofs of rights, it is expected that landholders will gain protection from conflicting claims and feel secure in their long-term possession of the land. This will enable them to change certain customary practices that have limited investment in land improvement, hindered intensive production and restrained the transfer of rights in tenancy or cooperative agreements to allow extensive and modern farm methods. In conjunction with other programs to expand cultivation, diversify crop production, improve yields, and upgrade storage, transport and handling facilities, the PFR is expected to help increase the volume and variety of locally-produced food coming to market. At the end of 2012, almost 400 villages have completed a PFR and a record of their early results and impacts is being compiled. This article looks at PFR results from the rural commune of Klouekanme, where early findings show some positive trends.

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Creating sustainable companies: Lessons from Ghana’s Agribusiness Centers

A common challenge to donors in the development community is safeguarding their investment and ensuring its financial sustainability. The return on investment of post-harvest interventions, such as processing facilities, can be significantly reduced if farmers and agribusiness are not properly incentivized to use and maintain the infrastructure over the long term. With this in mind, MCC and its partner agency in Ghana, the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), set out to design and implement a post-harvest project that would benefit private sector investors and provide equitable profits to small-holder farmers for lasting results. Using international best practices and lessons learned from a history of post-harvest investments in the development community, MCC and MiDA integrated some key design features to create a financially sustainable post-harvest model. The centerpiece of the post-harvest model was the creation of new agribusiness companies with shareholder representatives from the private sector and small-holder farmers. With a formalized benefit-sharing system and legally recognized organization, the Ghanaian farmers and private sector businesses were in a better position to profit from the technical assistance along with increased access to credit, roads and irrigation infrastructure that were provided as part of the MCC-funded compact. A number of lessons have been learned in the process of establishing the agribusiness centers, including the importance of formal shareholder arrangements that build trust and provide equitable benefits, the need to carefully select investors based on clear and transparent criteria, the advantage of providing business management training to farmers, the need to work closely with a legal team, and the importance of strategic agribusiness locations.

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