How to Balance Quick Wins with Sustainability – NAFAKA Staples Value Chain Project in Tanzania
This blog post was written by Elizabeth Eckert, deputy director for ACDI/VOCA’s agribusiness field operations, about the NAFAKA project featured during Breakfast Seminar #69, "Balancing Quick Wins with Sustainability: Feed the Future’s NAFAKA Project in Tanzania."
Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, development interventions that are intended to generate quick results have the potential to undermine local capacity and sustainability. So how do development practitioners reconcile the short-term need to show “quick wins” with the long-term goal of sustainable food security and economic growth? During its first year of implementation, the USAID-funded NAFAKA Staples Value Chain Project has been navigating a course that balances the need for quick wins and long-term sustainability. NAFAKA is a 5-year, US$30 million program that was awarded to ACDI/VOCA. It is one of a number of projects that comprise the Feed the Future program in Tanzania.
NAFAKA’s goal is to sustainably foster economic growth to reduce poverty and hunger. Two main objectives of the NAFAKA program are to improve the competitiveness and productivity of maize and rice value chains and to expand the depth and breadth of benefits from the growth of the maize and rice subsectors, including increased benefits to women and youth.
NAFAKA places a high degree of importance on following a value chain approach to strengthen the target sectors and to identify entry points that would allow “quick wins” while working toward the ultimate goal of sustainability. The following principals are informing all program activities and enable NAFAKA to achieve results:
- Facilitate value chain development, not lead it – NAFAKA endeavors not to insert itself into the value chain, but rather ensure that value chain actors understand their business options and make informed decisions. NAFAKA also makes sure that the right incentives are in place for increased efficiency.
- Market-driven and commercial viability –Private sector linkages are the catalyst for growth along target value chains. NAFAKA is supporting activities driven by an existing viable market while building upon the inherent value of the Tanzanian staple crops sector. Private sector ownership of an industry-wide strategy to increase competitiveness crucial to sustainability.
- Environmental stewardship – The sustainability of NAFAKA activities is dependent on good stewardship of natural resources, particularly at the farm level. Increasing production by putting new land under crops is not an option for long-term sustainable growth in Tanzania.
- Gender and nutrition integration into agricultural growth – Understanding the decision making roles of men and women at the household level is integral to improving productivity and ensuring fair distribution of the resulting benefits.
- Flexibility through relationship building – NAFAKA’s approach allows flexibility in scaling up interventions, because it starts with reducing investment risks and builds trust among value chain actors.
- Sustainability through Tanzanian empowerment – ACDI/VOCA has designed program interventions to be sustainable through our facilitation approach, strong Tanzanian staff, and local partnerships in implementation. Our facilitation approach ensures that value chain stakeholders take ownership of activities and that our activities are not market distorting.
In the first year of the 5-year program, ACDI/VOCA employed a “light touch” approach, encouraging ownership and leveraging private sector interest in program activities. Specifically, project staff used five strategies in year one:
- Staff worked with private sector actors such as input dealers and suppliers to establish demonstration plots with the intention of transferring the plots to these businesses after the program’s first year.
- The program trained agricultural extension agents with the understanding that they would be employed by ACDI/VOCA’s private sector partner Kilombero Rice Plantations (KPL).
- The program facilitated the development of farmers’ associations.
- The program built upon ongoing activities in the agricultural sector, working with the private sector (Yara, Syngenta, KPL), other donors (Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Food and Agriculture Organization), and Tanzanian institutions (Kilamanjaro Agricultural Training Center, Sokoine University).
- Staff built the capacity of local organizations and implementing partners, such as the Rural Urban Development Initiative and the small holder farmer organization MVIWATA.
In conjunction with these activities, NAFAKA is using monitoring and evaluation as a management tool to constantly learn from and adapt project interventions. Using targeting and milestones, this allows the project to quickly identify strategies that are achieving results and to deepen and expand upon them. It also provides a mechanism to re-approach targets and move activities in new directions as necessary.