Grow Africa releases its latest discussion paper, Fertilizer Subsidy Reform Revives Nigeria’s Agriculture, as part of its series of case studies in support of transformative change in African agriculture.

Grow Africa’s executive director, Arne Cartridge, comments: “Opinions about the role of fertilizer subsidies in agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa have fluctuated significantly over the past decades. Many experts believe that fertilizer subsidies represent an essential method for achieving long-term food security in the region, while providing social support to Africa’s poorest subsistence farmers…. We hope this discussion paper can stimulate discussion and the development of new solutions across the continent, and that Grow Africa can continue to a learning environment where best practices can support speed and scale in execution.”

Wasafiri’s own Karen Tibbo, an expert consultant in agriculture, food security and nutrition, researched and developed the technical report for the paper. She consulted with the wide range of stakeholders responsible for the reform programme, including the then Minister of Agriculture, Akin Adesina.

Karen explains: “He [Adesina] was clear that the main driver for reform was to hold government accountable for their use of public funds. He put a system in place to ensure the poor, who are supposed to benefit from these funds, actually received them. One of the most striking achievements was to replace the old, ineffective system of government distribution of fertilizer and, in its place, incentivise the private sector to build an agro-dealer network. This has increased access by farmers to high quality inputs more broadly, leading to higher national productivity.”

Ian Randall, Wasafiri’s practice lead for agriculture adds: “The previous fertilizer subsidies were structured in a way that perpetuated corruption and had minimal impact on inclusive agricultural growth. Akin Adesina and his team were able to embrace technology so as to dramatically reconfigure the system. It practically demonstrates how innovation and committed leadership can drive positive change in complex systems – even where entrenched, vested interests need to be overcome.”

The paper covers the agricultural transformation agenda; the reform of the national input sector; the growth enhancement support programme; targeting subsidies through farmer registration; progress around fertilizer delivery to farmers; and the broader impact of the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) programme. In addition, the study looks at pertinent lessens learned, such as:

  • A national fertilizer subsidy programme can substantially increase crop yields and improve food security for smallholder farmers.
  • It is possible to break the cycle of wide-scale corruption and inefficiency in national fertilizer subsidy programmes.
  • Entrenched systems that paralyse productivity cannot be dismantled without high-level commitment and political goodwill.
  • Investment confidence grows in an operating environment conducive to business and free of government interference.
  • A demonstrable reduction in risk and transaction costs yields dramatic changes to commercial lending to agriculture.
  • The delivery system is key to the effective implementation of the GES and enables government to account for the expenditure of public funds on inputs for farmers.
  • Transparency and accountability are underpinned with cutting-edge technology.
  • The ability to have a flexible and adaptive response to challenges in programme design makes for early and rapid success.

Download the full report, fertilizer-subsidy-reform-web, to learn more about the facts, figures and how these valuable lessons were learned.


Download Change Perspectives – Wasafiri Insights 2014 For  some practical tips and ingredients on how to deliver change.

In the last year Wasafiri consultants have worked across Africa delivering change in diverse settings and on diverse projects. Working with private, government and NGO clients and across the continent we have tried, succeeded, failed and learnt new lessons about how to deliver change in Africa. ‘Change Perspectives’ is our new short report that shares  some of the practical insights we have gained.

The nature of war is changing. Two years ago, the State Council declared that global conflict was becoming “more integrated, complex and volatile”. Their view would appear prophetic given the recent spate of hostilities in countries such as Libya, Ukraine, Palestine and Syria, all fuelled by highly combustible combinations of social, political, geographic and resource-based triggers for violent competition.

Against this alarming trend, we also see a proliferation of the responses devised to counter what is perceived to be a growing threat to national interests. Such reactions are driven by an increasingly disparate assortment of political, economic and security agendas, backed by an dazzlingly diverse array of actors, from emerging economies seeking to flex their international muscle to enterprising private companies exploiting frontier markets.

As a result, we find ourselves witnessing the birth of whole new industries, sparking an explosion of the acronyms used to describe increasingly complex “solutions” to counter increasingly complex threats; Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), Serious & Organised Crime (SOCA), Security Sector Reform (SSR), Counter-Terrorism (CT) and Counter-Insurgency (COIN). All these and more, crowding the spaces traditionally reserved for more “conventional” military, development and humanitarian interventions.

Among such approaches now at the disposal of foreign governments is “Stabilisation”, a poorly understood and often contentious term that has been used to define western responses to a multitude of crises over the past decade. But fundamental questions have emerged to challenge the orthodoxy; what is it exactly? Is it relevant or even effective? And what of its future? Such questions were the subject of a recent international conference hosted by the Danish and UK governments.

“Stabilisation” as a mandate first formally emerged with the appointment of the Stabilisation Force for Bosnia and Hezogovnia (SFOR) in the early nineties. It has since been practiced most explicitly in military-led campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, becoming firmly wrapped up in the hubris of the US-driven War on Terror. Over that time the concept has increasingly become muddied in the waters of counter-insurgency operations, consent winning military activities, counter-terrorism initiatives and wider state building ventures. Often it has been derided as a callow attempt to ‘win hearts and minds’, an approach reduced merely to the delivery of notoriously expensive and often counter-productive ‘quick-impact projects’.

Its usefulness in tackling conflict has been further undermined by institutions – military and civilian alike – adopting a confusing patchwork of interpretations to suit their own purposes, and badging increasingly varied, even contradictory, activities under the moniker of stabilisation. Conduct a quick survey (as we did of our international partners in Somalia) and you will immediately encounter the ugly truth; “Its too difficult, we shouldn’t bother.” “Its everything, and its nothing.” “It’s had its time”.

Yet whether we like it or not, stabilisation appears set to stay. Since the mid-1990s, twenty-nine multi-lateral UN, NATO and EU missions have worked to peacekeeping, peace enforcement or political mandates which include the promotion of stability. These include the Central African Republic, Liberia, Mali, South Sudan and Kosovo. A further sixteen multi-lateral missions have been explicitly mandated to use stabilisation to achieve their strategic objectives in countries such as Afghanistan, DR Congo, Somalia and Haiti. Together, these efforts have involved budgets in the billions, tens of thousands of troops, and the engagement of many western government’s political and development ministries.

In short, stabilisation matters. Learning the lessons and getting it right in the face of today’s rapidly mutating threats to global stability is more crucial than ever.

Hence the conference; a gathering of policy makers and practitioners from the Danish, UK, US, Canadian and Dutch government agencies charged with overseeing stabilisation efforts abroad. With the dust still settling on a two-year stint as Senior Stabilisation Adviser for the British Embassy in Somalia, I was roped in to help facilitate the gathering.

The event, held in the grounds of Wilton Park in East Sussex, primarily served as an opportunity for the UK and Danish governments to unveil their newly varnished stabilisation doctrine.

The UK, following an exhaustive cross-governmental consultation, has refocused its definition of stabilisation around an explicitly political aim; as “one of the approaches used in situations of violent conflict designed to protect and promote legitimate political authority, using a combination of integrated civilian and military actions to reduce violence, re-establish security and prepare for longer-term recovery.” Whilst the tighter political focus was generally welcomed, concerns were raised over how legitimate political authority should be determined and promoted.

The Danish have taken a broader view in their newly published Integrated Plan for Stabilisation Engagement. In their glossy brochure-style treatise, they propose a multi-dimensional, multi-agency approach to tackling threats to stability “lying at the nexus of security and development in fragile states” such as extreme poverty, religious extremism, economic crime, refugee flows and terrorism. Whilst the expansive approach succeeds in bolstering pan-government agendas, it risks reinforcing the notion of stabilisation as yet more empty foreign policy jargon.

Yet the similarities of the two approaches are more striking than their differences. Both governments recognise that the stabilisation of fragile and conflict affected states is a risky but essential challenge for the 21st century. Both see it no longer a question of whether to engage in stabilisa­tion, but of where and how to engage in the future. Both see stabilisation as central to forging greater unity across overseas developmental, diplomatic and defense contributions.

However, and despite the rhetoric, the real test lies in moving beyond past failings, of heeding the lessons which were all too painfully laid bare during the conference. Few attending had emerged unscarred by previous mistakes in undertaking stabilisation in far-flung war-torn corners of the globe. However with the growing mess of threats to security arising from countries as diverse as Iraq, South Sudan, and Nigeria, it is clear that the demand for stabilisation is only likely to grow.

Smarter definitions, a growing library of lessons learned and more relevant concepts hewn from experience are a good start. Yet the real worth of the exercise will be the extent to which policies are improved and delivery on the ground is sharpened. My own recent experience of establishing a two-year $18million programme designed to sustain military and political gains in the battle-scarred southern reaches of Somalia offered rich insight into the realities and shortcomings of what could be achieved through a targeted initiative overseen by a dedicated team of specialists with the freedom to innovate, move quickly and build on success.

A number of forthcoming events however will serve as the real litmus test of positive change; NATO’s strategic rethink, the UK’s Strategic Defense Review, as well as the achievements of the UK’s new Conflict, Security and Stability Fund and the Danish Peace and Stabilisation Fund. Only then, if and when we see future stabilisation undertakings moving beyond a decidedly mixed track record to an approach driving demonstrable results on the ground will we be reassured that the effort, and the cost, has been worth it.

Hamish recently concluded two years as the British Government’s Senior Stabilisation Adviser in Somalia, and now lead’s Wasafiri’s conflict and stability practice – dedicated to working with military, political and civilian organisations to help deliver change in fragile and conflict affected regions.

Partnerships are in fashion. Donors like the idea that, by asking organisations to work together, to share knowledge, expertise, geographical reach and influence- there is the opportunity to create greater impact and deliver more change. Whilst the theory of partnerships may seem simple, the practice is complex. I was recently asked to lead a workshop that would help build a real, working partnership, one capable of working on one of the most challenging issues we all face – climate change.

BRACED (Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters) is a DFID funded programme that supports NGOs to build the resilience of people to extreme climate events. To be effective BRACED demands that organisations come together to share expertise and work together to create sustainable and scalable solutions. However, delivering change takes more than commitment to a shared cause. It takes commitment to one another; it takes good understanding and a clear, shared direction; and this is where Wasafiri came in.

BRACED Ethiopia, a Christian Aid-led partnership between ActionAid, King’s College London, BBC Media Action and the UK Met Office- invited Wasafiri to lead a workshop for them. The aim of the workshop was to develop the shared commitment, understanding and direction that they needed if they were to secure full funding for a 3-year BRACED project and deliver real, lasting climate change resilience in Ethiopia.

The ‘BRACED Ethiopia Workshop’ was held in April 2014 in Addis Ababa. Over four days it was attended by more than 40 people representing key partnership members, local implementing partners, government, and DFID amongst others. Wasafiri created a process that was participatory and action-focused. We created the space for organisations to build the relationships and understanding of one another that they would need to work together. And then to build a plan and structure that meant everyone knew what they were responsible for and how they would deliver their part. At times the workshop was challenging, there were issues of leadership and participation to address, and agreement of tangible outcomes to achieve. However through shared commitment, a willingness to listen and learn and the co-creation of a tangible plan – together we built a partnership capable of creating real change.

“Thanks Wasafiri – a lot of high energy work in a short space of time” (workshop participant)

“…we all were fascinated by the quality of Katie’s facilitation, light, embracing, probing deeper in to the issues and alternative ideas as well as proper time management and eventually amazing results” (Country Director, Action-Aid)


STOP PRESS: It has just been announced that the partnership has been shortlisted for 3 years of  BRACED funding from DFID.

For more information on BRACED see here


photo credit: <a href=””>CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

22.9 million[1] people across Africa are living with HIV. The social stigma associated with HIV means that for many people living with HIV is not just about their health, but also about their livelihoods, their home, community and family. Reducing the social stigma of HIV supports those affected by HIV to gain work, earn a living, live with those they care about, talk about their status, access the care they need, and ultimately to live with HIV. In turn, this increases the willingness of others to get tested, to discuss HIV prevention and hence to tackle the spread of HIV.

Reducing social stigma is hard. In many communities, faith provides the backbone to people’s attitudes and behaviour and so faith leaders and faith communities have remarkable influence over beliefs around HIV. By refusing to acknowledge HIV or through messages linking HIV with morality, faith can drive stigma. Consequently CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) in partnership with GNP+ (Global Network of People living with HIV) created the ‘Stigma Reduction Initiative’. This programme was launched in Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia and used a peer to peer approach, based on people living with HIV ‘surveying’ others also living with HIV about their own experiences of stigma, discrimination and faith. The findings from the surveys were then shared with faith leaders who were supported to develop action plans to reduce stigma and discrimination in their communities.

Katie Chalcraft of Wasafiri Consulting was asked to evaluate the impact of the Stigma Reduction Initiative. We found a notable improvement in the HIV-related knowledge, attitudes and practices of the faith leaders involved in the initiative in the 3 pilot regions. More specifically, among the people living with or affected by HIV involved in the survey in Adigrat (Ethiopia) and Ibenga (Zambia) there was a general decline in exclusion from from social, family and religious activities, and improvement in the psychosocial aspects of peoples quality of life and increased uptake of HIV testing in the target communities.

For more information about Katie Chalcraft and her work please visit her profile here

Lead for CAFOD on this work was Georgia Burford. To learn more about CAFOD and their work with faith communities and on stigma reduction visit here

The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) is an inclusive, multi-stakeholder partnership to rapidly develop the region’s agricultural potential. To advance this pioneering effort, the SAGCOT Centre was formed to provide coordination and facilitation for the partnership. For a development initiative, the SAGCOT Centre has an unusual governance structure that ensures it is genuinely multi-stakeholder and inclusive of government, farmers organisations, companies, and donors. This important innovation has however presented problems for structuring donor finance. Multiple donors means multiple procurement requirements, plus SAGCOT Centre’s unique structure did not sit comfortably with establish protocol. The SAGCOT Centre’s work was severely hampered until structures could enable funding to flow.

The challenge was both technical and human. A technical solution was needed on how to structure parallel funding, whilst at the same time a relationship-driven process was required to encourage each institution to make some concessions to their established protocol in order adopt a common approach.

Wasafiri Consulting was hired by Grow Africa to support this process, both by facilitating a consensus and developing a technical solution. The SAGCOT Centre can now plan their finances with a degree of confidence.


Swiss Re, one the world’s leading reinsurance companies, runs a leadership programme each year for its next generation of Managing Directors. To make the learning engaging, Swiss Re wanted to present the delegates with a business challenge that was real and compelling.

Wasafiri identified that providing insurance to Africa’s 600 million smallholders offered a huge commercial and social opportunity, but one that was going to demand Swiss Re staff to rethink traditional business models. Swiss Re was already pioneering new models, such as through a partnership with Oxfam and WFP in Ethiopia to strengthen the resilience of rural communities (see video below). But how could such models be taken to scale? Against this question, Wasafiri designed a 2-day business project that threw Swiss Re’s future leaders into the challenges and dilemmas of how to provide affordable, commercially viable insurance to smallholders at scale.

2014 will be the fifth year Wasafiri has run the simulation. Each year participants not only leave with rich learning about their leadership skills, but also with renewed passion for the role Swiss Re can play in generating shared value in Africa. Over this period, Swiss Re has also significantly scaled up its engagement in Africa, and programmes like R4, that were once managed as corporate responsibility initiatives, are now managed by commercial teams.

Agricultural production in Africa, undertaken in the main by smallholders, is a highly risky activity with poor returns. To realise Africa’s potential, there is a need to commercialise smallholder production, thereby increasing returns. But amongst a range of different inputs, such commercialisation requires greater access to finance.

Value-chain finance offers an opportunity to expand and coordinate financing for agriculture, as well as to improve efficiency by facilitating financial access and lowering agricultural costs and financing risks. Agriculture investment of this nature is being provided at different levels and by a range of private- and public-sector actors, with facilities financing smallholders that are integrated into value chains through the use of inclusive business models. Such models are therefore helping financing facilities to access smallholders, because the risks and operating costs for lenders are reduced when farmers are integrated into value chains.

Wasafiri (in partnership with Prorustica) was commissioned to carry out a mapping survey on best practices in this field by the AFRACA-CTA partnership on strengthening smallholder-inclusive value-chain finance in Africa. The study also extended to gauging the use of associated tools such as (mobile) technology and risk management mechanisms for enhancing agri-finance.

The intelligence generated by the survey is expected to inform future decision-making in efforts to advance farmer-friendly rural agricultural financial products and services in Africa.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually, with many more trafficked within the borders of their own countries. The practice is fuelled by demand for cheap labour in a number of sectors, including for domestic workers.

In Cameroon, migration both to and within the country has led many people, including women and minors (under 18 years), to perform domestic work in order to improve their standard of living. While the government has ratified a number of international treaties against human trafficking, including the UN Convention against Transnational and Organized Crime, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention (C189) has not yet been ratified. The area is still largely governed by an obsolete decree from 1968.

Working in an under-regulated sector and with a poor grasp of any rights and entitlements they may have, migrant domestic workers frequently face situations of exploitation, moral and physical abuse, and employment under illegal working arrangements.

Wasafiri was contracted by the IOM to support Cameroon’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Labour and Social Security in a bid to strengthen their capacity to deal with the consequences of trafficking in domestic workers. The assistance included conducting a feasibility study on ratification of the C189 Convention, so as to facilitate government approval of the same. Wasafiri also developed tools such as standard operating procedures and designed a communications strategy and materials (including sensitisation leaflets, posters, and so on), as well as training modules. These will help raise awareness and equip relevant stakeholders with skills to provide assistance in cases of abuse and exploitation.

Expert advice was also provided by Wasafiri to top ministry officials on wider issues associated with migration and human trafficking.

Since inception in 2012, Grow Africa has catalysed a historic shift in private-sector engagement in African agriculture, with partner companies announcing over $10 billion in planned investment aligned to the national development goals of twelve target countries. This intent has translated into action, with over $2.3 billion invested, creating 88000 jobs, and reaching over 10 million smallholders in 2015 with new contracts, sourcing, services or training.

Wasafiri has been instrumental in the conception and implementation of Grow Africa. In 2011, Wasafiri realised that while CAADP – the African Union’s plan for transforming agriculture – was making progress with the public sector, it risked stalling unless its aspired private-sector response was triggered. At the same time, the World Economic Forum’s private sector-led “New Vision for Agriculture” was calling for transformative multi-stakeholder partnerships, but needed government counterparts to provide political leadership to advance enabling environment improvements.

Wasafiri connected these two efforts and Grow Africa was born as a partnership platform to accelerate investments for sustainable growth in African agriculture. Convened by the AUC, the NEPAD Agency, and the World Economic Forum, Grow Africa generates concrete commitments by companies for inclusive and responsible agri-investment, and facilitates multi-stakeholder collaboration to ensure this investment delivers shared value, as both commercial returns and a beneficial impact on jobs, incomes, and food security.

In addition, the Grow Africa Investment Forum offers a flagship annual event, bringing together Heads of State, Agriculture Ministers, leaders from business, farmers and civil society, and G8 Development Ministers to report on progress, highlight challenges, and showcase opportunities for investment and partnership (see video).

Grow Africa has contracted Wasafiri to provide programme support since its inception, including:

  • Strategy development, team coordination and programme management
  • Stakeholder engagement, especially with farmer organisations, domestic companies, African institutions and donors
  • Facilitation and communication support at Grow Africa Investment Forums, including event reports
  • Managing stakeholder engagement in Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi.
  • Producing Grow Africa Annual Reports, to the acclaim of international leaders
  • Developing and maintaining Grow Africa’s first website
  • Securing donor finance worth over $10 mn.
  • Devising a comprehensive M&E strategy
  • Facilitating the Smallholder Working Group, a network of pioneering companies seeking to work with smallholders to make them more profitable an productive.
  • Researching and writing briefing papers on key topics such as Smallholder Delivery Models or Fertiliser Subsidy.

For Wasafiri, Grow Africa provides evidence that our approach to systemic change works. Grow Africa’s alignment of political and commercial interests and its unprecedented cross-sectoral collaboration have combined to generate the commitment, intelligence, direction and action required to deliver change at scale.

Its rapid progress also means this action-oriented partnership-based approach is inspiring the design of initiatives to tackle systemic challenges in other contexts, such as Grow AsiaPower Africa, Move Africa and the Zero Hunger Challenge. As the world looks to new collaborative approaches for delivering the SDGs, papers from the World Economic Forum  and the Harvard Business Review cite Grow Africa as powerful model for transformative, systemic leadership.