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The LEAD project has had significant positive results by using a modified M4P approach. Findings show more than a 400% increase in both maize yield per hectare and weekly egg production, and a 107% increase in number of birds per farmer’s flock by the end of the project. Maize farmers’ median income increased 400% from USD 54 to USD 269.
In Tanzania, poverty is concentrated in rural areas. Of the 13 million Tanzanians living in poverty, 85% live in rural areas. These people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods for both income and food security.
It is important to address the challenges that rural agricultural farmers face to address the issues of food insecurity. These include the dependence on rain, poor access to information, imperfect markets, transportation constraints, lack of proper storage facilities, not enough capital to invest, and high input cost – all of which result in low rates of technology adoption, and low production and income. BRAC started the Livelihood Enhancement through Agricultural Development (LEAD) project with funding from the UK government to address these challenges faced by the smallholder farmers.
The project was implemented from April 2013 until March 2017 to improve household incomes of over 100,000 rural smallholder farmers (65% of whom are women) in the poultry and maize subsectors in 40 branches under 15 regions in Tanzania. The project’s focus was at the smallholder level: looking at the development of the relationship between input suppliers, farmers and traders that contribute to the local food economy, while looking at the development of markets.
There were four components of the project: (1) capacity development of farmers in maize and poultry farming and formation of producer groups, (2) provision of investment funds to small and medium enterprises (suppliers and buyers), (3) financial services to farmers, and (4) creation of market linkages.
The project employed a modified M4P (Making Markets Work for the Poor) approach. The pure M4P approach focuses on playing a facilitation role in carrying out projects, relying on market actors and other stakeholders to provide services in the private sector. The main issue here is that the approach is theoretically based on a perfect market system, which is often not the case, especially in countries with high levels of poverty. Often the private sector is not equipped to provide all the necessary services required to successfully involve smallholder farmers in the market. One must carefully take the local market conditions into account when applying any approach. It is important to identify what is and is not working in the local market and what limitations are causing underperformance of the market.
The M4P approach is the most effective when market actors are active. In Tanzania, BRAC’s assessment of local market conditions found that while this was the case, market actors had poor capacity and limited networks which were unable to reach and provide technical support to smallholder farmers in rural areas. These findings were in agreement with BRAC’s previous experiences and learning: that facilitation alone does not succeed in helping rural smallholder farmers living in poverty. By taking local markets into consideration, BRAC identified a need to provide services which were not available within the existing system.
We designed a specific, modified M4P model to address this need. Instead of following the pure M4P approach, BRAC’s LEAD project partially involved direct implementation (such as providing training and agrifinance, but no other subsidy for inputs) in addition to facilitation when needed. The success of the LEAD project has indicated that in order to reach smallholder farmers, some direct interventions, which are not readily available in the rural areas, are needed.
The project was a resounding success. Findings show a 400% increase in maize yield per hectare, a 445% increase in weekly egg production, and a 107% increase in number of birds per farmer’s flock by the end of the project. Maize farmers’ median income increased 400% from USD 54 to USD 269. Poultry farmers’ median income from birds increased over 100% from USD 40 to USD 81 while median income from eggs increased 961% from USD 59 to USD 626. 77% of the farmers who received agri-finance reported that the loan was useful. Results also indicate that the average monthly income of the small and medium enterprises who received the investment fund support (grant and loan), increased by 99% in one year.
Both farmers and market actors have received mutual economic gain from being involved in new connections facilitated through the project, indicating that the interventions were successful. The LEAD project shows high potential to serve as a model for replication to provide a complete solution for improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers in other countries. As Nai Sifael Mesiakia, a smallholder maize farmer said, “I know the project is going to end but my life will continue. I will be able to use the knowledge I received to produce even more, so that I can keep supporting my family.”
MD A Saleque is the adviser for agriculture and livestock at BRAC International.
Maisha Chowdhury and Wendy Xiao are interns for agriculture and livestock at BRAC International.