Learning Route on Practical Solutions to adapt to climate change in production and post-harvesting sectors

By Vivienne Likhanga
“Climate change issues are pertinent all across the world. One moment we are experiencing floods and the next we are facing extreme drought. The climate change euphoria that is with us right now will not be permanent. We need to seize this opportunity to do things right and learn from each other’s experiences. The learning route is a great opportunity to bring together families to come and learn from each other”, Robson Mutandi – IFAD Country Director in Mozambique
These were the concluding remarks by Mr. Robson Mutandi in the opening session of the Learning Route (LR) Practical solutions to adapt to climate change in production and post-harvesting sectors; the case of Mozambique and Rwanda, which set off the tone for the ten days training programme.
Opening Session: (Left to Right) Mr. Daniel Mate, PROSUL Project Director, Mr. Abdul Cesar Mussuale, Director of Agriculture CEPAGRI, Robson Mutandi, IFAD Country Director for Mozambique and Mr. Ariel Halpern, PROCASUR Corporation Vice President.

After months of preparation and 80 applications, 25 participants from 7 nationalities in Africa were selected to attend the LR. The diverse group, mostly coming from International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD) projects in East and Southern Africa, namely Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Botswana, contributed to a multicultural experience of learning, participatory knowledge building and exchange.

A Learning Route is a continuous process of training in the field organized thematically around successful experiences, case studies and best practices on innovative rural and local development in which local actors themselves become trainers. 

The 10 days Learning Route organized by Procasur Corporation with IFAD's support took place in different districts of Mozambique and Rwanda between the 6th and 16th of November 2016 as part of a one year long Learning Initiative (LI) on Climate Change Adaptation that will take place in the East and Southern Africa (ESA) region, under the framework of the Programme: “Strengthening Capacities and tools to scale up and disseminate Innovations”.

The LR began with an opening session at the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM) in Maputo, Mozambique with the participation of various Climate Change experts and stakeholders from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security Centre for the Promotion of Agriculture (CEPAGRI). Mr. Ariel Halpern, the vice president of PROCASUR Corporation, welcomed the group and gave a brief introduction of the LR.

Climate smart strategic ideas are needed in order to improve the resilience of farmers and value chain development. PROSUL in the framework of climate change in conjunction with IFAD is contributing to alleviate poverty. I urge everyone to contribute to the fight against climate change by offering their ideas from back home as they learn from the experiences of Mozambique” - Dr. Abdul Cesar Director of the Fundo de Desenvolvimento Agrario

All the 25 participants were excited to share their experiences during the experiences fair. For most of them, the objectives of the LR had an underpinning similarity: To identify climate-smart practical solutions in production and post-harvesting sectors to reduce losses and enhance resilience of smallholders living in their countries.

The main objective of this LR was to scale up through peer to peer learning the Mozambican and Rwandan best multi stakeholder strategies, tools, practices, and mechanisms of increasing farmers’ awareness and ownership in adapting to the negative impacts of climate change in order to reduce production and post-harvesting losses. For this purpose, the best practices of two IFAD Projects were selected by PROCASUR as the hosting case studies: the “Pro-poor Value Chain Project in the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors (PROSUL)” in Mozambique and the “Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP)” in Rwanda.
“During the LR we are going to learn how to enhance small holder farmers’ resilience in order to face negative impacts of climate change in a pragmatic way by empowering them with strategic solutions from different trialed and tested experiences” - Ms. Laura Fantini, PROCASUR LR Coordinator

Climate smart solutions for horticulture, livestock farming and cassava multiplication in Mozambique

The LR started in Mozambique with the purpose of learning from the experiences of the Pro-poor Value Chain Project in the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors (PROSUL) in three value chains: horticulture, red meat and cassava. 
A local champion showing the participants the use of drip irrigation in the shade cloths in Mafuiane - Namaacha District, Mozambique.

The first field visit in the country led the participants to the green and fertile plains of Mafuiane, in Namaacha district. After a warm and hearty welcome with songs and dances from the farmers members of the Associaçao de Regantes de Mafuiane (Water Users Association in Maufuiane - WUA), the participants got to learn first-hand about climate smart solutions for enhancing horticulture through the use of shade cloths (greenhouses) and drip irrigation. The initiative resulted in the smallholder farmers' specialization in the production of high value vegetable crops to supply specific markets within and outside Mozambique during the low hot and dry seasons.

Horticulture represents a major value chain for a large numbers of vulnerable households in Mozambique. Smallholders farm an estimated 90% of the areas devoted to horticulture throughout the Country, on plots of less than 1 ha which is the average size for smallholder farmers. Before the interventions of the PROSUL project with financial support of the Adaptation to Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), they mostly produced during one season, using traditional technologies and a minimum of input. The introduction of shade cloths and the use of the drip irrigation schemes has increased outputs across both high and low seasons, opening up the smallholder farmers’ markets for quality products in restaurants, hotels, national markets, regional/local markets with exports still available to South Africa and other neighboring countries. Mozambican farmers have now become major suppliers of these new channels improving their livelihoods.

There were demonstrations of the 8 stages of the haymaking process with a comparison of the different animals' conditions in the project with those of other animals that are not participating in the project yet. It was clear to see and appreciate the benefits of the livestock supplementary feeding techniques through haymaking. The selling point for this labor-intensive practice is evident when the animal mortality rate and weight loss at the end of the dry season are compared with the ones before this project intervention.
Illustration of the Haymaking Process. This practice has two options: opening a hole in the floor where the grass is pressed and/or pressing the grass in a wooden box. The farmers have been trained on the best time to cut the grass, how to dry it and how to prepare salt blocks.

The last experience related to the PROSUL case study was the multiplication of climate-resilient varieties of cassava in Manjacaze District, Gaza Province. The farmers champions explained to the LR participants how they have been able to identify climate-resilient solutions for improving cassava production and showed the production and multiplication plots as well as several examples of processing cassava.

Scaling up Climate Smart Solutions to reduce post-harvest losses in Rwanda

After the enriching experiences of the PROSUL project in Mozambique, the LR journey moved to Rwanda to learn from the Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP). The opening session in Kigali was graced by Mr Clavier Gasirabo, Director of the Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) in MINAGRI and by Lucia Zigiriza, PASP project manager and by many other SPIU staff members. A panel to introduce the LR participants to the climate challenges and responses in Rwanda was led by Mr. Denis Rugege, Climate Change expert, and by Mr Emmanuel Kabera. 
A local champion Mr. Kadugara Frank explaining to the LR participants the processes of sorting, grading, drying and storage of grains in his warehouse in Kayonza, Rwanda

Smallholder farmers in Rwanda’s rural districts face a myriad of challenges; the main one being loss of productivity—occasioned by an increasingly variable climate. Post-harvest losses are recognized in Rwanda as some of the greatest sources of inefficiency in agricultural production in the country. The causes of post-harvest losses are not limited to pests, pathogens, spoilage and damages but are also caused by a lack of suitable storage structure and an absence of management technologies and practices.

PASP was formulated as an instrument for the implementation of the PHSCS (the National Post-Harvest Staple Crop Strategy) which aims to develop an efficient post-harvest system driven by the private sector to reduce post-harvest losses and ensure food security of staple crops. To tackle climate issues that will have an impact on the sustainability of PASP investments, ASAP financing supports the integration of climate risk management in the planning and implementation of investment undertaken by HUB owners through the promotion and demonstration of climate resilient practices, structures, and innovations.

The LR in Rwanda showcased the experiences of the HUB operational model as product and business aggregation points, the Private-Public-Producers Partnership – 4Ps Model in Nyagatare and in Ngoma Districts and the Climate forecasting and information tools in PASP project.

The participants visited KOREMU Cooperative in Ngoma and CODPCUM Cooperative in Nyagatare to learn about the HUB operational model. A HUB is a structure where the equipment and technology that are necessary for the post-harvest activities are concentrated in one location. The HUBs put cooperatives at the centre, strengthening their relationships with financial actors and the private sector, involving them directly as part of private investment and enhancing their role as actors of change.
listening keenly: LR participants draw lessons on how rain water is harvested and stored for use during dry seasons in Kayonza, Rwanda

The members of the cooperatives have benefitted directly at the community level improving their socio-economic conditions and their resilience. There have been behavioural and mindset changes thanks to the training provided through PASP. Their livelihoods have also improved thanks to the enhanced quality and quantity of products to be sold in the market and the consequent increased prices.

Building climate services capacity in Rwanda: Useful climate services information for increased resilience and productivity 

To build a more climate-resilient agriculture sector, the Rwandan government and partners are taking action to provide nearly a million farmers with timely access to essential climate information services. The PASP partnership with the Rwanda Meteorological Agency (RMA) provides smart-climate information to farmers. On the last day of the LR, participants visited the RMA and met people who elaborate data directly from satellite images and from the 300 meteorological stations spread across the country in order to provide short, medium and long--term climate forecasting to be disseminated to the smallholder farmers. Currently they are able to reach 5000 farmers and many improvements are foreseen in the next future using the HUB created by PASP as main dissemination points of climate information.
Clementine Niyibigira is a Sector Agronomist, she explained the role of agronomists in mobilizing farmers on climate smart agricultural techniques in CODPCUM Cooperative in Nyagatare, Rwanda

Overall Lessons Learnt

Climate-resilient farming practices can bring overwhelming benefits for farmers.

The LR participants gained many lessons from the 2 host cases mainly around 4 learning outcomes. More in detail, they learnt about: (i) climate smart infrastructures, technologies, practices and techniques in production and post-harvesting sectors; (ii) how to better promote relationships between farmers, local stakeholders and financial institutions in order to access market and create linkages with the private sector; (iii) how to improve institutional and political dialogue at local and national level in order to create an enabling environment to enhance adaptive capacities.

At the end of the learning process the participants drew linkages among these learning outcomes in order to have an integrated approach to enhance smallholder farmer’s resilience to the negative impact of climate change.

As final output of the LR, the participants proposed fresh ideas to be envisioned into innovation plans they will draw in order to scale up the lessons learnt into their different contexts

This has been a very inspiring and insightful experience for me. We have been integrating conservation agriculture in our project in Malawi so it has been interesting to see first-hand which methods the farmers in Mozambique and Rwanda are adopting in order to deal with the challenges of climate change. We have farmer field schools in Malawi where smallholder farmers are taught and empowered about climate smart agricultural techniques. However, I was very impressed by the use of extension officers in the PROSUL project and how they work hand in hand with the farmers. I plan to create a linkage between our farmer field schools and the extension officers. I am also going to upscale the issue of rain water harvesting, mulching, pit planting and the use of the shade cloths during dry seasons. From Rwanda, I have drawn from their use of cooperatives, in linking smallholder farmers to the market and financial institutions. Interest rates are so high in Malawi. We have farmers' organisations but most of them are weak and little geared towards providing services to their members. In Rwanda they are much friendlier and the cooperatives give a lot of support to the farmers. For this reason, I am going home with ideas to lobby policy makers in Malawi to embrace the use of cooperatives in linking farmers to financial institutions and markets” - Mr. Rex Baluwa, National Project Coordinator - Sustainable Agriculture Production Programme in Malawi.
“I have learnt that there’s nothing useless in a cassava plant. I am going to adapt to our projects because I have realised we have been wasting so many opportunities” -Eunice Nakasi, Field Officer at the Kalangala Oil Palm Grower’s Trust under the Vegetable Oil Development Programme, Phase II – VODP II in Uganda
“Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must change too. Climate change is no longer a fallacy. If farmers have to move ahead, we have to embrace adaptation and climate smart agricultural techniques to mitigate the effects.” Egidio Mutimba - Climate Change Expert, Pro-poor Value Chain Development Project in the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors in Mozambique
“For climate change adaptation strategies to be initiated by the smallholder farmers and for long term sustainability, the adoption of simple and affordable technologies and solutions has to be applied. They also have to be involved in the planning to orient project design and implementation. Building on consultative and participatory processes develops stakeholder ownership and sustainability of the projects” - Lucia Zigiriza, Project Coordinator, Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project – PASP Rwanda

Stay tuned for more on the innovation plans from the LR and more information on the Learning Initiative. Please visit our Website, Picasa Album, Slideshare and Facebook Page for library information, photos, presentations and updates.