In Central Africa’s Great Lakes Region (CAGLR) agricultural production and crop yields are far below their potential. The CAGLR also is challenged by the highest population density in Africa and small farms that limit opportunities to use improved agricultural practices and mechanization. Agricultural growth offers the best opportunities to spur economic growth for the millions of households in the region’s rural areas. However, this growth will require a substantial increase in productivity per land unit. To achieve productivity increases, smallholder farmers need much better access to services and agro-inputs (fertilizer, improved seeds and crop protection products). Furthermore, to achieve the full benefits of increased productivity, farmers need to be connected to viable markets.
CATALIST-2 follows the successful CATALIST agricultural intensification project (2007-2012). CATALIST-2 builds on CATALIST activities in the CAGLR, specifically in Burundi, Rwanda and the North and South Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). CATALIST-2 will continue a strategy of promoting agribusiness cluster development, market integration and agricultural intensification. Scaling up CATALIST’s ‘islands of success’ is expected to lead to a much larger ‘wave of change.’
The five-year project (2012-2016) is funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Embassies of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the respective countries and implemented by IFDC with assistance from the Centre for Development Innovation of Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR-CDI). Improved germplasm is a key to improving crop yields and product quality, and WUR-CDI will establish systems to increase germplasm availability. WUR-CDI also will conduct studies and create linkages with national, regional and international research institutions.
Improving Smallholder Farmers’ Livelihoods and Markets
The goals of CATALIST-2 are to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and others in the agricultural value chain and promote regional trade and business linkages, which will support regional peace and stability. The project objective is to significantly improve food security in the CAGLR. CATALIST helped over 250,000 farm families significantly increase production and incomes. Building on those efforts, CATALIST-2 will focus on targets that offer the best opportunities for success. These include effective agribusiness clusters, high-demand commodities, existing agro-dealer networks and infrastructure (e.g., farm-to-market feeder roads). Improved stakeholder collaboration (in agribusiness clusters and beyond), increased trade and exchanges (at local, national and international levels), improved income for farmers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), direct and indirect employment creation and improved food availability and accessibility will all significantly contribute to regional peace and stability.
CATALIST-2 will increase surplus agricultural production linked to vibrant markets. When the project ends, 700,000 smallholder farmers will have seen their incomes increase by 50 percent; together, they will have produced an additional 1 million metric tons of marketable cereal equivalents, contributing to food security in the project’s target areas.
CATALIST-2 will scale up CATALIST’s achievements. Using the ‘market’ as the key driver for agricultural intensification, scarce development resources will be maximized through the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs). National and international agro-enterprises in areas such as agro-input supply, professional service provision and output marketing will be PPP targets. Project staff will also collaborate with Dutch knowledge centers and other agricultural development projects and focus on effectiveness and efficiency, thus increasing CATALIST-2’s impact and return on investment.
IFDC Solutions for the CAGLR
CATALIST initially focused on the introduction of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM), agricultural practices adapted to local conditions to maximize the efficiency of crop nutrient use and improve agricultural productivity. ISFM includes the use of mineral and organic fertilizers, soil amendments (such as lime and phosphate rock), organic matter (crop residues, compost and animal and farmyard waste), improved germplasm, agro-forestry and the use of crop rotation and/or intercropping with legumes to replenish lost soil nutrients. IFDC’s introduction of ISFM in the CAGLR led to two- to four-fold increases in crop production, production cost reductions and dramatic increases in marketable surpluses and farm incomes for project-affiliated farm families.
The project’s focus on storage and credit also increased farmers’ economic well-being. Through value chain development, strong agribusinesses were created. With ISFM widely accepted, CATALIST-2 will now focus on further agribusiness development to assure a strong market pull for the surplus commodities produced. A vibrant agribusiness environment is a critical motivator for farmers to produce a surplus. Therefore, the project will expand the use of IFDC’s Competitive Agricultural Systems and Enterprises (CASE) approach, which was introduced by CATALIST in 2009.
CASE is based on agribusiness cluster formation and the strengthening of public and private institutions’ ability to enable agribusiness and trade. Agribusiness cluster formation coordinates various stakeholders at the grassroots, including smallholder farmers, local entrepreneurs, traders, financial institutions, research and extension services and market information systems. CASE strengthens farmers’ capacities, providing the knowledge and tools they need to increase the amount and quality of their crops and then links them to markets so that they can sell their produce at a profit. CATALIST-2 will increase the number of agribusiness clusters, those active in them and relationships among clusters.
Farming as a Business
Building on the experience and technical achievements of CATALIST, IFDC will help build a stronger and more productive agricultural sector that can significantly contribute to a reduction of supply-induced and structural food scarcity in the CAGLR. To increase regional food security, CATALIST-2 will focus on a reduction of production costs per commodity unit and an improved policy and business environment in the agriculture sector. The project will help increase agricultural production and create a vibrant market for the resulting agricultural products. CATALIST-2 also will work with stakeholders to assure a balanced mix of commodities and markets to reduce the risks of a narrow commodity base. Staple crops as well as pulses, oil-crops, fruits and vegetables will be grown, allowing the region to address nutritional issues through diet diversification.
Presently, most African farmers are subsistence farmers. CATALIST and other IFDC projects have proven that many smallholder farmers have the motivation and potential to move from subsistence to commercial farming. With sufficient economic incentives and technical support, they can improve productivity in a wide range of commodities, leading to marketable surpluses and improved incomes. The project will target those farmers that possess or have access to a certain amount of land and therefore can accept a certain level of risk. Experience has shown that ‘intermediate’ farmers – those having 0.5 to 2 hectares – are the most professional farmers. CATALIST-2 will work to change these subsistence farmers into commercial farmers.
Therefore, the project will not directly target the poorest or most vulnerable farmers, simply because the land they own or lease is too small to have any significant impact and they are unable or unwilling to accept risks. CATALIST-2’s contribution to food security will be direct (participating farmers produce more food) and indirect (surplus food makes its way to the market and off-farm employment increases incomes). Also, CATALIST-2 will focus on farmers that are active in or near viable agribusiness clusters (particularly those located in border areas or that have regional significance). The project will have a bias toward farmers that have market access and/or live close to infrastructure that supports markets. The impact on regional food security will be increased by more than tripling the number of involved smallholder farmers.
Updated October 2012