Agriculture and Food

We recognize the obvious strategic importance of agriculture and food security within the developing world, and particularly in Africa. Transforming agricultural performance through improved productivity, efficient market systems, enabling environment, trade and investment is vital to feeding our growing populations, and lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty and malnutrition through increased incomes from trade and investment.

Our strategy is grounded in market-based approaches which are critical to unlocking opportunities to increase incomes, promote domestic and regional food security and, play a key part in improving social outcomes, including health and education. Our work in Agriculture and Food helps to increase the competitiveness of farmers and agribusinesses by catalyzing transformation in agricultural services, inputs - including productivity enhancing technologies, capital and product markets.

Our team of international agricultural experts and private sector professionals has experience working with clients in local and global contexts to identify, design and implement innovative solutions which add value to agricultural market actors, right from smallholders, agribusinesses, industry associations, key logistics actors, market actors and food supply and distribution systems.

Our work in Agriculture and Food includes:

We manage agricultural projects that disrupt exploitative practices, promote transparency and increase opportunities for structured engagement. Examples of projects include contract farming and out-grower models, agricultural market development, commercialization of smallholder agriculture; including through adoption of better farming practices and application of modern farming technologies such as efficient use of irrigation, and introduction of new crop varieties and livestock breeds.

We partner with farmer organizations, private sector, development agencies and governments to build competitive agricultural value chains. Our work helps key actors to improve business performance and creates competitive and inclusive value chains. We train farmers in handling of produce, for example, grain handling techniques and, train on improved food quality standards and safety. We address barriers to trade within domestic markets and across regions.

We manage projects that facilitate systemic change and steer market transformation, because we believe that better functioning markets enable inclusive growth, and reduce poverty. Onward Resources assesses market systems, studies the root causes of underperformance; and facilitates partnerships, innovations and interventions that address market failures. We design cost effective M&E frameworks, including monitoring plans and result chains that measure systemic change.

In instances where food security is less about production and more about a broken route-to-market, we address the root causes of inadequate and inefficient distribution. Our work may include assisting smallholder farmers to access; credit and farm inputs, storage and warehousing facilities and vital logistics that ensure quality foods are preserved and efficiently distributed to consumers.

We link our agricultural development work to nutrition outcomes, because we know that good nutrition is an essential foundation for health and development. In a context that malnutrition continues to be one of Africa’s most serious health problem and the biggest contributor to child mortality, progress in this area has significant opportunities for generating positive returns.

Climate change leads to an increase in the intensity and frequency of weather extremes, severe floods, landslides and droughts. It affects agriculture, human health, ecosystems, water supplies, and livelihoods. While no country is spared from climate change, the greatest negative impact is borne by the most vulnerable, majority of who are smallholder farmers who rely on agriculture for incomes and food. We promote cost effective climate change adaptation practices in food production.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Farmer organizations are critical intermediaries for promoting efficient production practices and marketing of smallholder agricultural products, but often have weak management and operational systems. Our work builds the governance, management and operational capacity of farmer organizations to improve their chances of becoming successful links for their members-the smallholder farmers.

Finance is a key agricultural input and can be a vital wealth multiplier. We link smallholder farmers to finance by managing innovation, for example, facilitating effective partnerships between financial institutions, warehouse receipting systems and agricultural market actors. We assist agricultural input providers, on-farm service providers, transporters, post-harvest handling providers and agro-processors to access working capital in order to strengthen links with producers.

Mobile and ICT technologies provide opportunity to revolutionize the pace, scope and depth of development impact, particularly in agriculture. We partner with others to identify opportunities for utilizing mobile and ICT and to promote efficient goods and services markets. Specifically, we work with service providers to test, develop and scale up services that promote efficient extension, market information, financial services and agricultural markets.