Fintrac’s ability to introduce market-led production systems to growers at all levels is unparalleled in Honduras. Under the ACCESO project, we are building on previous experiences, alliances, and successes to ensure small-scale farmers have the opportunity to benefit from access to inputs and markets, training in good agricultural practices, and transfer of basic technologies. Our implementation methodologies always include the whole farm approach and are based on the concept of learning by doing.
- Basic grains producers with zero technology, low productivity, and little income generation are introduced to basic technologies that increase grain yields and reduce production and postharvest losses. These include improving land preparation, increasing plant densities, modifying fertilizer applications, utilizing weed control systems, and standardizing harvest and small-scale storage systems. These basic changes will double or triple traditional yields at little or no additional cost, ensuring availability for self-consumption and sale of any additional volume. We additionally introduce small-scale, on-farm supplemental income sources (e.g. surplus from kitchen gardens, small orchards, poultry production), and off-farm employment (on other farms or within local MSMEs).
- A selection of local market high-value vegetable growers will be assisted in the target zones through the introduction of specialized and integrated technologies and practices including crop and market selection, farm and land evaluation (water, soils, pests, history) and preparation (timing & methods), and irrigation installation and testing. They will produce under contracts with supermarket chains, processors and export companies. These are potentially highly profitable operations generating direct and indirect upstream and downstream employment with increased incomes along the entire chain.
- Coffee farmers will learn practices to lengthen harvest periods, increase yields, maintain and determine quality, and obtain certifications that help them expand into higher-value coffee lines, including specialty, organic, Fair Trade and others. Fintrac will also provide opportunities for coffee farmers to diversify into the high-value horticultural value chain.
Our implementation methodologies incorporate our guiding principles:
- Markets inform crop selection
- Farming is a business
- Diversification reduces risk
- Small farmers require recurrent technical assistance
- Local capacity ensures sustainability
- Interventions should be integrated and holistic
- Collaboration maximizes resources
- Flexibility is critical
Two major strategies to increase market access for smallholder famers include:
- Grower Organization Farmer grouping and organization is typically necessary to meet buyer volume requirements. It also provides clear advantages when negotiating with input suppliers, transport carriers, and financial institutions. Fintrac assists existing grower groups by providing them the necessary training and tools to ensure or improve basic business practices, locate new buyers and markets, obtain required group-level certifications, develop logistical supply programs with buyers, expand the range of services available to members, and develop systems for management of natural resources and water sources. In our experience, farmer groups established around specific supply programs to larger farmers and buyers tend to be more flexible and market-driven than those organized around social/political purposes.
- Private Sector Alliances None or very few of the ACCESO activities and results can be achieved without the participation of the private sector. Production has to be driven by buyer demand, and production technologies and systems cannot function without participation of equipment, input, and logistics companies. ACCESO works with private companies to establish demonstration plots, deliver training activities, facilitate new technologies, establish retail or distribution systems in target zones, and provide discounts and credit to farmers and farmer groups. They will form an integral part of both technology dissemination and commercial sustainability. Similar alliances will be made with buyers at all levels, and credit will also be provided by buyers as part of joint alliance activities.
A prevalent and persistent view by most banks and other lenders is that agriculture is too risky, and so combined with small farmers’ poor (or non-existent) accounting systems, lack of business skills, informal structure, and lack of collateral, it remains very difficult to obtain financing in rural areas (despite numerous efforts to change the status quo). When it is available, it is typically limited to short-term supplier credit, bank loans secured to land or buildings, or high-interest loans from microfinance institutions (MFIs).
Fintrac has worked extensively in rural finance in Honduras. To maximize impact we prioritize partnerships with MFIs that seek to expand rural lending; input providers that see a link between more effective credit and increased sales; and banks with a microfinance orientation or working relationships with value chain actors. We are also pleased to have FUNDER as one of our core Consortium members, because of their role in promoting village-based banking (cajas rurales). The following are examples of ACCESO activities in rural finance:
- Work with formal markets (supermarkets, processors, exporters, wholesale buyers, etc.), grower groups, and banks in developing trust funds to provide value-chain financing.
- Assist MFIs and other financial institutions to develop new suitable financial products for small farmers and other rural MSMEs and provide information products on all target crops and products
- Work with agricultural input supplier wholesales to expand trade credit lending to input stores (and in turn to small farmers).
- Expand reach and use of other more nascent non-traditional products such as warehouse receipts, Cajas Rurales, and Carn�t de Cr�dito, which have the potential to provide loans to large numbers of small farmers and other rural MSMEs.
- Develop and deliver training courses for lending staff in agricultural loan analysis and assessments, product development, and risk management.
- Promote development and use of credit bureaus by both traditional and non-traditional lenders.
ACCESO is in the process of conducting a disincentives survey of a range of private sector participants to prioritize key policy constraints that limit growth. The findings of the disincentives study will be presented in an open forum with both private and public sector representatives, and private-public working groups will be established and supported by ACCESO. Specific points of investigation include:
- Current level and impact of access to finance (including the benefits providing more collateral options for lending to rural businesses)
- Land titling
- Business registration requirements
- Access to technologies and markets
- Research and development (R&D)
- Cross border trade bottlenecks for agricultural product
- Rural road qualities
- Cold chain and value added infrastructure (through tax, financing or other incentives);
- Government extension services (looking at various models that would increase outreach and quality)
- Local food safety standards (including monitoring of pesticide residues on local market produce)
- Coverage and dissemination of market information
- Government capabilities in strategic planning (including the development and implementation of FTF Food Security Country Investment Plan as well as multilateral donor-funded project designs)
- Promotion of Honduran products in international markets; and improvements to the annual
Nutrition and Food Security
Maternal and child health, family planning, sanitation, and nutrition are substantially worse in the six target ACCESO zones than the national Honduran average. There are a higher percentage of stunted and underweight children, a higher incidence of diarrhea in children under five, and a higher percentage of houses with no sanitary facilities. Women in the target departments depend on the public sector to supply them with contraceptives to a greater extent than the rest of the country because of the lack of private pharmacies and health clinics in the region. ACCESO’s Nutrition and Health component is working to increase the availability, quality, and utilization of maternal/child health and family planning services through:
- Coordination and capacity-building with community-based volunteer health workers and the ministry of health.
- Cost-shared grant support to a minimum of 20 health clinics or NGOs for basic equipment, supplies, training materials and in-home health extension services.
- Integration with cross-cutting project activities that promote health and nutrition goals (e.g. crop diversification, kitchen gardens, infrastructure [latrines, stoves] and farm chemical safety).
- Promotion of health and nutrition messages at farmer field days and extension interventions, community-level NRM events, and business skills training sessions
- Design of workplace health education programs for employees of medium and larger-scale partners.
Cross-cutting activities whose impact on the health and nutrition component is of critical importance include:
- Crop diversification to improve dietary diversity at both household and community-level. This includes introduction and support to production of high-nutrient fruits and vegetables produced both commercially (surplus for sale) and within kitchen gardens (for household consumption with small surpluses possible for sale). Kitchen gardens have been specifically included to increase the diversity and nutrient quality of foods consumed by families, and as a potential income source for the farm household women and youth.
- The promotion of latrines, more fuel-efficient wood burning, community water infrastructure, and water source protection.
- Farm chemical safety (FCS) and integrated pest management (IPM) training to ensure proper selection, application and storage and safe methods for disposal of containers , along with a FCS curriculum to be used by rural primary schools to educate children about the dangers of farm chemicals and their containers.
Natural Resource Management
Natural resources management and conservation remain a challenge throughout the country, especially in high poverty and vulnerable areas such western Honduras. Furthermore, there is a wide consensus that poverty and illiteracy are major drivers in the deterioration of farm productivity and the natural resources base, if no proper actions are taken at family, community, municipality, and regional levels. On-farm NRM activities that maintain healthy soils and conserve water are integrated into the good agricultural practices that are at the centerpiece of the ACCESO extension program, with work at community, micro-watershed and municipal levels in collaboration with community groups. All Fintrac field programs minimally incorporate:
- Pesticide use – adherence to EPA, Honduran government and other industry requirements; use of Integrated Crop Management (ICM) programs and beneficial organisms and biological agents; introduction of floating row covers; protected agriculture; training in IPM and pesticide application methods; pesticide storage and handling; pest and disease identification and scouting; recordkeeping; use of protective equipment; and pesticide container disposal.
- Land preparation – use of contoured beds; raised beds; drainage systems; no/low tillage techniques and wind/erosion barriers; introduction of appropriate animal traction, tools, and machinery; and development, production and use of organic compost.
- Crops – use of sticky traps; planting of live barriers; crop rotation; elimination of crop residues; use of border weed control; farm certification; use of hybrid seeds and improved planting materials with greater disease tolerance; and promotion of agroforestry systems.
- Water – use of drip irrigation and protection of water sources from contamination. Our approach not only leads to better water management, better water quality, less soil erosion, less pesticide and fertilizer use, and increased carbon fixation, it also increases yields for farmers, reduces input costs, and increases gross and net incomes.
- At farm-level, environmental and food safety activities in packhouses and processing plants are integrated into all technical assistance packages (and marketing programs too, per most buyers’ specifications).
ACCESO beneficiaries are the poor and extremely poor, including women, youth and indigenous populations. We integrate these vulnerable populations into our programming in the following ways:
- Provide training and technical assistance in places accessible to women
- Field days
- Create gender-sensitive training materials
- Invite women to trainings
- Employ female agronomists to provide extension services
- Provide trainings in processing and postharvest handling
- Tailor crop selection
- Establish seedling nurseries
- Introduce drip or other improved irrigation
- Introduce new, high-nutrient food security crops and kitchen gardens to increase the food security of the entire household
- Help women start kitchen gardens
- Provide Business Development Services (BDS)
Spotlight on Nutrition
USAID-ACCESO is working to ensure that increased incomes result in improved health and nutrition, not only for the 30,000 families receiving direct technical assistance, but also for the entire population in the project’s target areas. To do so, the project integrates nutrition and health into its core agricultural production and economic development activities.