The East and Southern Africa Division of IFDC is responsible for a region comprised of 20 countries with a combined population of over 440 million people. The vast majority of these inhabitants are dependent on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood. Depending on the country, poverty rates fluctuate between 35 and 70 percent, with the majority of smallholder farmers earning less than US $1 per day. This cycle is not new. In fact, many seemingly timeless agricultural practices are still widely employed – clearing land for cropping, growing crops for a few seasons until the nutrients in the soil are depleted, then fallowing that land in search of new land to clear. The fallowed soil eventually regained its fertility, and the cycle began again. Today, however, population growth forces farmers to continually plant on the same land, “mining” soil nutrients and leaving the soil barren. As a consequence, the dual threats of soil nutrient depletion and population increases have caused per capita food production to decrease substantially over the past 30 years while leaving fewer natural resources than ever.
For the farmers in this region who seek a more modern approach to agriculture, unassisted progress is painfully slow. Farmers struggle to gain access to the improved seeds, quality fertilizers and crop protection products needed to build soil fertility and increase agricultural production. Smallholder farmers also often lack access to credit, which further deters their efforts. Then, after harvest, many farmers cannot sell their crops at prices that cover their costs, much less generate additional income.
ESAFD, led by J.J. Robert Groot, works to combat these negative trends and increase farmers’ incomes through enhanced agricultural productivity programs. These goals are accomplished by improving farmers’ knowledge of best agricultural practices and soil fertility management and by improving their access to quality agro-inputs and to output markets. Through collaboration with national governments and regional economic communities, the division supports initiatives to create an enabling environment for agricultural intensification and private sector development. ESAFD’s goal is to reach millions of farmers in the region, increasing their productivity by 50-100 percent and family incomes by 30-50 percent.
Improving Soil Fertility
ESAFD works to develop sustainable and competitive agricultural production systems, with special attention to Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM). ISFM is the key to increasing agricultural productivity while protecting the environment and maintaining (or even enhancing) the soil resource base. ISFM strategies include the combined use of mineral fertilizers and locally available organic amendments (crop residues, compost and green manure) to make the soil hospitable for optimum crop growth.
Farmers are trained in ISFM and other agricultural best practices for effective nutrient management. As a primary promotional tool, demonstration sites show the importance of using quality fertilizers and seeds and advocate better land management to increase agricultural production.
ESAFD has also expanded its focus to include agro-forestry and reforestation programs. The goal of these programs is to decrease the competition between energy production and agricultural production. IFDC reforestation programs create favorable conditions for biodiversity conservation and harmonize long-term management of the region’s natural resources.
Building Farmers’ Capacities
ESAFD seeks to increase the productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers through the development of competitive and sustainable agricultural value chains. This includes strengthening farmers’ capacities at every level – from timely access to quality inputs and training in modern farming techniques to sale of farmers’ crops at more competitive prices.
ESAFD also assists agro-dealers in the adoption of better business practices, including the supply of agro-inputs at appropriate times and the knowledge to demonstrate their proper use to farmers. Project activities focus on building both farmer and agro-dealer associations, extending those networks in rural areas and helping existing associations become more professional, effective and sustainable. Associations provide members with such benefits as training sessions, study tours, networking opportunities, access to financial institutions, collective purchasing and selling power and a voice in advocating policy changes.
With the help of national and regional partner organizations, governments and donors, ESAFD works to promote regional trade by strengthening farmers’ access to markets, improving the policy environment, disseminating market information and rehabilitating key market roads, among other infrastructure improvements.
Current ESAFD Projects
- Toward Sustainable Clusters in Agribusiness through Learning in Entrepreneurship (2SCALE), 2012-2016
- Africa Soil Health Consortium, 2011-2014
- Agricultural Growth Program - Agribusiness and Market Development Project (AGP-AMDE) in Ethiopia, (2011-2015)
- Agricultural Input Market Strengthening (AIMS), (2009-2012)
- Tanzania Staples Value Chain (NAFAKA), (2011-2015)
- Privatization of Rwanda’s Fertilizer Import and Distribution System (PReFER), (2010-2015)
- Savings, Subsidies and Sustainable Food Security, (2009-ongoing)
- Seeds for Development in South Sudan, (2011-2013)
- Sustainable Energy Production Through Woodlots and Agroforestry (SEW), (2009-2013)
Recent ESAFD Projects
- Accelerating Agribusiness in Africa – Bridge (AAA-Bridge), 2011-2012
- Catalyze Accelerated Agricultural Intensification for Social and Environmental Stability (CATALIST), (2006-2012)
- COMESA Regional Agricultural Inputs Program (COMRAP), (2010-2011)
- Extending Agro-Input Dealer Networks (EADN) in East Africa, (2008-2011)
- FAO - Mozambique Voucher Program, (2009-2011)
- Livelihoods and Enterprises for Agricultural Development (LEAD), (2008-2013; IFDC assistance 2008-2010)
- Maize Intensification in Mozambique (MIM), (2008-2012)
- Mozambique Agro-Dealer Development (MADD), (2009-2012)
- NEPAD-FAO Fertilizer Subsidy Study, (2011-2012)
- Rwanda Agro-Dealer Development (RADD), (2010-2013)
- Strengthening Trade at the Regional Level in Agricultural Inputs in Africa (STAR), 2007-2010
IFDC Offices in East and Southern Africa
ESAFD has offices and/or staff in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with divisional headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. These offices support over 100 experienced professionals whose mission is the alleviation of hunger and poverty and the establishment of food security and agricultural sustainability in the region.
ESAFD Regional Office
c/o icipe Campus
P.O. Box 30772-00100
Telephone: +254 20 863 2720
Fax: +254 20 863 2729
Please see project page for media-related information including articles, brochures, newsletters, photos, press releases and videos.
Photo Captions and Credits:
Left Photo: Rachid Laajaj
Right Photo: Rwandan boy outside Kigali charcoal fields. Photo by Meg Ross