New Partners in Value Chain Development get a hands-on look at maize in Rwanda
This guest post was written by Nussi Abdullah of FIELD-Support, who was recently in Rwanda for the Mentoring for Value Chain Impact program described below.
During the kick-off workshop to launch the Mentoring for Value Chain Impact program—part of the MD office’s GROOVE initiative—held in Kigali July 25-29, a group of mentors and mentees spent a day in the field in rural Rwanda. The field visits gave them a first hand look at how cooperatives operate and helped them learn more about how to gather relevant details for more informative value chain analyses and effective program implementation.
The team visited USAID’s Post Harvest Handling and Shortage (PHHS) program implemented by Carana and ACDI/VOCA. The program is designed to promote growth in food staple crops by integrating smallholders into regional and national markets by linking their surpluses to buyers. The group of mentors and mentees spent the morning with the Indakuki cooperative, a collective of 1,500 maize farmers in Gashora, about an hour southeast of Kigali. The cooperative was formed in 2007, and is part of the Rwandan government’s push to increase cross-border trade and secure staple crop reserves to enhance food security.
The mentees were shown around by the cooperatives’ president and a group of farmers who use the facility to dry, sort, and mill the corn they grow and sell through the cooperative. The mentees—coming from Rwanda, Ghana, and Malawi—as well as the mentors—from Kenya, Canada, and the US—interviewed the cooperative leader and members together, asking key questions to better understand the maize value chain. This particular value chain faces challenges in Rwanda due to heavy subsidies by the Rwanda government as well as multilaterals such as the World Food Program, which is the cooperative’s biggest buyer.
For the mentees, this was a unique opportunity to exercise some of the skills they are seeking to strengthen in value chain facilitation. After the meeting, the group took some time to debrief and discuss what they had learned, mapping out what they now understood about the value chain and identifying the types of information they still needed to collect or validate. Leveraging the support of the mentors, the knowledge and expertise each of the mentees brings from their own contexts, and their own impressions from having personally interviewed the members, the participants’ discussion covered a broad range of topics. They examined the following:
- The role of women in the value chain
- The importance of increasing the role of the private sector in the value chain, especially as end markets
- The need to better understand supporting services, such as financing and investment partners, transportation networks, technical assistance, and extension services
Over the next nine months, the mentees, with regular support from their mentors and each other, will work through an in-depth curriculum developed by CARE and partners through the FIELD-Support LWA that covers the technical and operational skills implementers need to support more effective value chains by applying a facilitative rather than direct implementation approach. This site visit gave the mentees and mentors a practical opportunity to begin to understand those differences. “It helped me understand how important it is to start with the end markets,” said one participant, for example, “and that’s something I will think about more for my projects back home.”