New film and report highlight success of Challenges’ flagship Rwandan Coffee Project

Watch Challenges’ new film about the Rwandan Coffee Project!

 

Challenges’ flagship Rwandan Coffee Project has reached its mid-way point. To mark this major milestone, Challenges has released the above film and published a report detailing the activity that has gone on during the past two and a half months.

Featuring voices from Rwanda and Scotland, it reveals the journey coffee takes from the farms of Sholi to the cafes of Glasgow.

In the report, we detail much of the activity that has gone on across the eight coffee co-ops we’re working with, and how we have met a range of project milestones and targets. You can read and download the report, here.

Major achievements of the Rwandan Coffee Project

Challenges Rwandan Coffee Project

  • Growing volumes of coffee beans exported by 18%,
  • Improve each co-op’s “cupping” score (measure of coffee bean quality) to 85 or higher (out of 100), and thereby achieving the “speciality coffee” accolade
  • Train of more than 800 coffee workers, smallholders, young people and women in areas such as management and leadership; quality control; business finance and operations; marketing; solar power and other clean technologies; and gender-based violence reduction. Of those taking part in training activities, 47.5% were women
  • Increase international market access, including sales visits and/or representation in Scotland and global trade fairs. This includes introductions to more than 15 new commercial buyers
  • Increase operational efficiency for most of the co-ops
  • Support the organisation of youth networks involving 850 young people and enabling increased access to business and work training, as well as support groups for women and girls to better access reproductive rights and healthcare
  • Provide accountancy software training and provide access to accounting software
  • Challenges Rwandan Coffee Project Provide functioning websites with new content, including newly commissioned photography
  • Drive clean tech innovations such as minigrid, water digesters and waste-water treatment facilities.
  • Catalyse nine start-up enterprises following business support, enterprise training and/or access to micro-finance.

Download the full report. 

 

 

 

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Challenges consultants deliver enterprise training to 170 agribusinesses

Challenges Group Musika agribusiness training

Challenges Zambia has completed a far-reaching training programme involving 170 agribusinesses in seven districts across the country’s Western, Central and Copperbelt provinces. During the eight-month project, Challenges’ consultants travelled a total of 18,700km!

Challenges Zambia undertook the Agribusiness Accelerate Initiative (AAI) project in collaboration with the agri-development agency Musika, a Zambian non-profit focused on stimulating private investment in the country’s agricultural market, specifically agribusinesses and smallholder and emerging farmers.

Challenges Musika agribusiness training

Challenges delivers agribusiness training.

The project, which also involved a number of other public and private organisations, was focused on building the capacity of the small and medium rural agribusinesses that are critical to the expansion of the agricultural sector.

Over the eight month period Challenges consultants visited businesses in Kaoma, Mongu, Kitwe, Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi and Mumbwa districts.

Key to Challenges’ philosophy is enabling enterprise leaders to acquire an in-depth knowledge about financial management in order to better ensure the success of their business. As part of AAI, participating smallholders and agribusiness personnel were trained in financial planning, profit and loss, budgeting, cash handling, accounting systems, balance sheets and cash flow statements, risk management, and raising finances.

The training was delivered by way of tasks during group work as well as roleplay, and were aimed at upskilling small agribusiness owners in goal-setting, customer gaps, market analysis and marketing plans, competitor analysis and various problem-solving tools.

The training also included digital marketing, financial management, risk management, competitor analysis, and strategies to achieve all-year-round business. One aspect of this was a course in Social Media for Business in which participants were taught how to effectively conduct business and communications on social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, among others.

During the training sessions, Challenges consultants identified fast learners whom they enabled to support other participants through peer-to-peer learning, a key element of Challenges’ approach to management and leadership training. One issue they faced, however, was language. Zambia has more than 40 languages spoken across the country and much of the Challenges’ training content was translated to cater for local audiences.

Market linkages

The Musika project has also provided small business within the AAI with opportunities for market linkages. These linkages were between small business partners and companies such as seed and fertilizer businesses, aggregators of groundnut and soya beans, financial institutions such as Zanaco and Agora, as well as businesses such as mobile money agencies and solar power companies. One of the aims of this was to enable agribusinesses to diversify their seasonal offering and obtain year-round commercial opportunities. On top of the move to grow market linkages, the trainings enabled many of the participating businesses to deliver a better service to their smallholder customers, clients and suppliers, as well as the larger agribusinesses with which they were engaged.

Following the rollout of the AAI programme and associated training, the range of agribusinesses and smallerholders now have a better understanding on how to manage their businesses and are planning on implementing the rest of the lessons by the end of their farming season this spring. Key to this will be managing cashflow in order to maximise profits they can invest in other businesses while also planning ahead for the next farming season.

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Challenges Malawi agribusiness project is showing early successes

VAC business training Crops
The first year of Creating Robust Opportunities for Crop Production and Sale

In October 2018, Challenges launched its Creating Robust Opportunities for Crop Production and Sale (CROPS) project in Malawi. Funded by the Scottish Government, CROPS is an ambitious five-year agribusiness programme that aims to improve the livelihoods of thousands of rural farmers and their families in four districts in Malawi.

Challenges Malawi CROPS project VAC trainers trade

VAC staff at a trade fair with CROPS products.

With a focus on business and co-operative development, CROPS seeks to increase household incomes of 6200 rural farmers in four districts – Nkhotakota, Salima, Machinga and Chikwawa – by 10% by 2023. The project is being run in collaboration with Opportunity International, a network of more than 40 organisations, with a focus on microfinance institutions.

Central to this programme is improving the value chains of a range of Malawian crops, as well as enabling and promoting value addition and processing activities, boosting institutional capacity building, and improving access to finance and reliable markets. Ultimately, increasing yields of better quality products with improved routes to markets will generate greater incomes for Malawian farmers, thus contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal No. 8 (Decent work and economic growth).

Adding Value and Early Milestones

At the heart of the CROPS project are four Value Addition Centres (VACs). These centres were set up by the Malawian government to help commercialise agriculture, but had lain dormant until the commencement of Challenges’ CROPS project.

Challenges Group Business raining Malawi

Business training in Malawi.

An early milestone of the CROPS was the training of eight farmers as machine operators to operate the VAC machinery as well as the appointment and subsequent training of four business development officers who are VAC trainers and  managers.  The project further recruited and trained 4 agriculture extension officers to facilitate agricultural trainings in order to increase crop productivity.

Within each VAC is machinery to process and package agricultural products supplied by a government project called SIVAP (Smallholder Irrigation and Value Addition Project) that ended in December 2018. The project is also working on improving crop production and rotation, providing business training to both farmers and VAC staff, and facilitation of access to markets for the processed goods. The products being processed by the VACs include, but are not limited to, rice, high quality cassava flour, cooking oil, and pigeon pea (dry tool dhall). With crop rotation and diversification a key part of the CROPS project, over the term of the programme this list will grow as new products are trialled.

As each local VAC team works to develop the capacity and efficiency of the VACs, Challenges Malawi has been working with farmers in 10 irrigation schemes to increase the productivity of their crops and enhance the aggregation of crops and enable greater value addition.

CROPS results in focus
Challenges Malawi CROPS project

Challenges Malawi CROPS project.

With the project now well into its second year, it has already achieved substantial results. During the period April to September 2019, the CROPS project delivered or enabled:

  • a 60% increase in rice yield from winter farming, from 2.5 tonnes per hectare in the baseline, to 4 tonnes per hectare;
  • an average of £1,244 gross profit achieved by each VAC. The average revenue was £2,150 with expenses of £900 per VAC;
  • the production of 191 tonnes of organic fertilizer, a more sustainable and environmentally responsible solution to chemical fertilizer;
  • the establishment of demonstration plots for farmers in each district to learn new technologies in crop production, one of which is the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). This allows farmers to increase productivity while using less water and less organic fertilizer;
  • the identification and engagement of – on average – four new commercial buyers per VAC as part of a wider campaign of marketing activity that included representation at trade fairs and buyers’ markets;
  • the increase in the price per tonne of VAC processed crops from £588 to £749 per tonne, representing 27% average increase;
  • training of 2,845 farmers (928 males, 1341 females, 550 youth, 20 elderly, 6 disabled). This included:
    • training of 150 lead farmers (63 males, 52 females, 35 youth) aimed at equipping them with the skills and experience to deliver farmer-to-farmer services that reached an additional 1,385 farmers (707 males, 678 females);
    • training of 660 farmers (317 males, 343 females) in post-harvest handling to reduce losses in crop quantity and quality for processing;
    • training – and subsequent job creation – of four agricultural extension officers (3 males, 1 female) to enable them deliver agricultural trainings to farmers;
    • training – and subsequent job creation – of four business development officers (3 males, 1 female) to enable them effectively deliver business and co-operative management trainings to VAC members. The training was conducted by two trainers from Challenges Rwanda;
    • training – – and subsequent job creation – of eight VAC machine operators (7 males, 1 male) in machine operation and maintenance in order to equip them with processing and machine maintenance skills at each of the VACs;
    • training of 15 board of directors (all males) in leadership, governance and financial management. This allowed them to provide oversight role in VAC operations, and increase transparency and accountability within the VACs. One outcome of this was that all four VACs now have a functioning Board of Directors able to conduct quarterly board meetings;
    • training of 64 members (40 males, 24 females) of VAC executive committees in leadership, governance and financial management. This enhanced their skills in day to day management of VAC activities. This led to greater transparency and accountability within the VACs by setting up accounting and administration systems.

 

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Progress for social enterprise Lilypads in Zambia after Challenges research

Lilypads Zambia Challenges Group

Lilypads is a Scotland-based social enterprise that seeks to address period poverty. As part of Challenges’ Access Africa Programme, Lilypads had engaged our Accra team to undertake a piece of consumer market research in Ghana and Zambia. This research targeted women and girls of menstruating age, and asked them about their requirements in regards to sanitary pads; whether they would be willing to use reusable pads; and their feelings towards ecofriendly sanitary pads, including how much they would be willing to pay.

Challenges identified a clear market opportunity for Lilypads, and its product and business model.

Lilypads ChallengesFollowing this market research, Challenges then looked at the practicalities of establishing a production and distribution base in a number of different locations, including Zambia. The legalities of producing pads locally, such as the requirements for establishing a factory that produces and distributes sanitary pads, was a key consideration. Costs, employment opportunities and future forecasts were also major factors.

Subsequently, Challenges Zambia engaged both the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) for the standards required for sanitary towels; and the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) as to the legal requirements to establish Lilypads as a company in Zambia that would produce ecofriendly sanitary towels.

Challenges also engaged with a number of potential partners, identifying the One Planet Café Zambia, a business in South Luangwa that produces and exports banana paper branded One Planet Paper. This sustainability focused social business was receptive to partnering with Lilypads to produce ecofriendly sanitary pads.

Challenges is now working to raise capital on behalf of Lilypads in order to run a pilot in Zambia.


The Access Africa Programme

The Access Africa Programme enables Scottish social enterprises and social entrepreneurs to explore and expand into African markets. It provides market research and business development support, funded by the Scottish Government, to enterprises and individuals who have an idea, product, service or model that could make a real impact in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

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Challenges works with arts therapy charity amid plans for Zambia launch

Zambian Therapeutic Arts business training

Zambian Therapeutic Arts was set up by retired psychologists and art therapy practitioners in Scotland. They have, over a number of years, trained eight Zambians on the delivery of art therapy-based counselling, as well as training others to deliver that counselling. These Zambians came from a range of professions (teacher, neuroscientist, private psychiatrist, university lecturer in medicine, physiotherapist, etc) with a unifying passion for mental health, and better outcomes for patients.

With a view to empowering the local trainers, and create a more sustainable entity in Zambia, Challenges Catalyst was approached to give guidance to ZTA on how to set up a social enterprise. In discussion, and with involvement from Challenges Zambia, it was proposed that a first step would be a short training engagement to assess the needs of the trainers, give some basic theory around business and operational set up, and finally allow a platform for brainstorming on how it might work. Content was taken from our CMI learning and development material, while also incorporating additional activities and interactive discussions.

Participation in the sessions was really good, and the Challenges staff saw a strong level of commitment, passion, creativity, industry specific knowledge and networks, and overall close bond between the team members.

Following the sessions, Challenges has recommended involving ZTA in the Access Africa Programme in the early part of 2020 to undertake a research into which legal entity would be the best option moving forward (with options including social enterprise, NGO, private business, not for profit, etc).

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Challenges Rwanda partners with RICH to deliver gender-based violence training

Rwanda Coffee Project

Challenges Rwanda has partnered with the Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH) to train community leaders and key figures within our project to support eight coffee co-operatives.

Over the past few weeks, Challenges has been supporting the development of the training, including translating much of the content into Kinyarwanda. The training will be delivered during the next week, coinciding with 16 Days of Activism, a global campaign to try to reduce violence and discrimination against women. Two weeks of follow-up training will take place in December next month, with another week in January.

Part of the work Challenges Rwanda undertakes with the coffee cooperatives is to engage the surrounding community to collectively develop solutions to the social issues they face.

It is with this focus that Challenges Rwanda partnered with RICH, an organization that has become renowned for expertise in the fight against gender based violence.

The aim of this training is to enable community leaders to become “agents of change”. Delivering this style of training means these individuals will return to their communities to teach and apply what they learned, therefore expanding the desired impact of the GBV programme.

Participants will learn about existing sex and GBV laws, and how to use that information to care for and support victims of male violence, including the procedure for reporting and other actions.

Matching the global trend, there has been an increase in violence against women in Rwanda. The Rwandan national public prosecution authority registered 505 rape cases in 2017/2018, compared to 308 cases registered the previous year. This is in addition to 1091 cases of domestic violence registered in 2017/2018, compared to 736 cases in 2016/2017.

This training is also complemented by a drive to widen access to reliable reproductive health information, especially for teenage girls and young women following a spike in teenage pregnancies, according to the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey.

As we prepare to roll out the training, Challenges Rwanda has also developed a plan to monitor and evaluate the larger impact of the training. We hope to see an increase in the number of people who are using the protocols set out to support GBV victims and to drive initiatives, led by the agents of change in the community, to raise awareness of, and combat, violence against women.

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Challenges Uganda’s analysis puts microgreens on the menus across Kampala schools

Challenges Uganda NUTRIgreens market insight

Challenges Uganda recently performed a commercial and impact analysis for the social enterprise NUTRIgreens. We undertook this market research to assess whether there was opportunity for the business’s “microgreens” products and whether these baby vegetables could be used to address Uganda’s malnutrition problem.

Malnutrition is a significant problem for families in Uganda. More than one-third of children under the age of five (2.4 million) suffer from stunted growth and 50 percent of children are anaemic. When it comes to education, Uganda’s dietary problem has further consequences. Malnourished children suffer from poor concentration and energy levels, which results in poor academic performance. With increased healthcare costs and a lack of opportunities, this in turn keeps families trapped in poverty.

Financially, the problem is also hindering Uganda’s economy. A 2009 study found that the cost of undernutrition among Ugandan children is equivalent to 5.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, some UGX 1.86 trillion (£420 million).

Challenges Uganda partnered with NUTRIgreens to develop a market solution to Uganda’s malnutrition problem. Established by Enactus Nottingham, NUTRIgreens is a social enterprise that aims to enhance the nutritional value of school meals by adding microgreens to the menu.

Microgreens are baby plants harvested between 7 and 21 days after germination. They contain up to 40 times the nutrient concentration of their mature counterparts, and require approximately 150 times less water. Due to their small size, they can be grown in volume with little burden on the producer, making them suitable for indoor growing.

NUTRIgreens commissioned Challenges to undertake a market analysis to investigate the feasibility of introducing microgreens into Ugandan secondary schools and to determine the potential long-term success of such an initiative. We also looked at their potential application in restaurants.

Challenges’ research findings

Through a combination of stakeholder interviews, online research and questionnaires completed by school principals, students and farmers, the Challenges Uganda team found considerable interest in the food product and the concept overall.

We found that small-scale farmers had appropriate growth materials and capacity, and were willing to diversify and grow the crop. Schools also expressed an interest, provided the microgreens were supplied at an affordable price. They were especially interested in NUTRIgreens’ offer to provide training programmes to students. The Challenges Uganda team also found concrete interest among other NGOs in partnering with NUTRIgreens with a view to rolling out this food source innovation.

As a result of Challenges’ research, NUTRIgreens is now working towards launching a pilot across Kampala schools later this month. With affordability a considerable issue for school management, NUTRIgreens will subsidise the programme by selling microgreens commercially to restaurants in both Nottingham and Kampala.

Both NUTRIgreens and Challenges recognises the potential for this young food. It’s an innovation that can both address the malnutrition crisis affecting Ugandan children, while offering a commercial opportunity for farmers and food producers willing to diversify.

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RISE Ethiopia delivers investment ready programme and mentorship for social enterprises

RISE Ethiopia launch

In Ethiopia, Challenges is working with 20 social enterprises to become investment ready as part of a six-month project that will also provide 20 young professionals with the opportunity to participate in a business analysis mentorship programme.

The RISE Ethiopia project is the latest in a long list of Challenges initiatives designed to up-skill young people while also supporting sustainable business growth in the country.

Run in collaboration with R&D Outsourcing and Entrepreneurship Centre, and funded by the British Council, RISE has been designed to improve the investment readiness of social enterprises in Addis Abba. It comes as the Ethiopian capital prepares to host the Social Enterprise World Forum this October.

After an initial market scope and assessment, Challenges staff recruited 20 social enterprises from sectors including agriculture, crafts, education and tech. These organisations have now formed the first cohort of what we hope will become a programme for other ambitious enterprises.

And as with most Challenges’ projects, there are a number of angles to this project!

Training young professionals

RISE Ethiopia business training

 

Running tandem with our scoping of suitable social enterprises has been the recruitment and subsequent training of 20 university graduates. Each of the 20 Challenges business advisers has been provided with a key placement at one of the 20 social enterprises taking part in the RISE programme. Their aim is to take their designated social enterprise through a programme of analysis and implementation support to enable it to become investment ready.

As part of their on-boarding with Challenges, each associate underwent an intense two-week training programme delivered by the RISE project team. Our Ethiopian project team designed this bespoke training to complement each adviser’s own work experience and degree, which cover a range of disciplines, including finance and accountancy as well as business administration and social sciences. This immersive approach gives the young professionals the unique opportunity to access all areas of a business and enables them to understand the competing tasks managers must balance in order to successfully run an enterprise. By having this rounded experience it puts them in the optimal position to secure a job either directly with the enterprise they have been placed in or in a job after they successful complete the programme as they have both the theoretical knowledge and the skills to put this into practice.

Business analysis

During the RISE programme, each enterprise will receive an in-depth analysis of its investment readiness. They then receive professional business consultancy support from a Challenges associate; access to senior technical expertise to address specific business issues related to investment readiness; monthly group training programmes and workshops for enterprise leaders focused on entrepreneurship and management skills; implementation support including access to our business diagnostic tools; and leadership coaching as well as networking opportunities.

It’s this multi-faceted approach that Challenges is becoming known for. In a nutshell, the RISE programme is recruiting young graduates, giving them a work placement, employment experience and business training, while also supporting the growth of social businesses, which in turn will drive sustainable economic growth and job creation. Our ability to pull together various strands in order to achieve multiple aims reflects our expertise in being able to understand the on-the-ground detail while also fulfilling the ambitions of organisations and agencies seeking to address the UN’s sustainable development goals.

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Coffee market building for peace and prosperity in Rwanda

Challenges Rwanda Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity

Challenges Rwanda is a member of The Challenges Group, a family of social businesses committed to building prosperity. Challenges Rwanda launched in 2017 and offers a range of business growth services including business diagnostics, market assessments, pilot and prototypes, deal strengthening, investment readiness, and more. Our team of experienced associates also deliver accredited training programmes in business, management and leadership from the Chartered Management Institute, and we are uniquely placed to deliver tailored programmes adapted to rural and isolated environments and/or remote audiences, ensuring we provide trainees with the best opportunity to grow personally and professionally.

One of our key projects in Rwanda is the Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity, which is funded by the Scottish Government. The coffee sector has been one of Rwanda’s success stories, playing a pivotal part in restoring the economy after the genocide 25 years ago, and rebuilding trust between community members. Helping the Rwanda coffee sector to better access the international market is one of the key aims of our Rwanda coffee project.

Launched in partnership with Twin Trading and the Scottish Fair Trade Forum in 2017, the Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity project is working with eight coffee co-operatives in the country’s western and southern regions. The project, which is also supported by Enactus and Matthew Algie Coffee, aims to increase the capacity of eight Rwandan coffee co-operatives by delivering business, management and leadership training; improving quality control and each co-op’s “cupping scores”; streamlining and better enabling infrastructural processes; widening access to international markets; encouraging the adoption of clean tech innovations; and working with communities, particularly women and young people, to overcome systemic barriers to economic growth.

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Challenges partners with Uganda Solar Energy Association to enhance services

USEA Uganda Challenges Group

The off-grid solar energy sector is an exciting and fast-moving arena that Challenges is excited to be working in. Our Challenges team in Uganda has partnered with the Uganda Solar Energy Association (USEA) as part of its mission to grow solar energy businesses in Uganda and the East African region.

Founded only a few years ago in 2016, USEA is an independent non-profit business membership body that was formed to act as a driver for the development of the off-grid solar energy sector in Uganda. It also seeks to push for improvements of solar energy standards, and to attract new entrants to the solar energy sub-sector.

Challenges Uganda is working with USEA to better understand its potential to act as a broker of business development services for its members. Most recently, we conducted needs assessments of 25 USEA members, giving us detailed insights into the sector as well as each business’s individual needs, as well as their future investment strategies, risk profiles, and whether they have the appetite for USEA’s support in connecting them to business development services. Data from this research has now fed into the construction of a pilot training programme in organisational leadership and sales and marketing, which will be offered at a subsidised rate for USEA members. At the same time, we’re also working with USEA to enable it to operate this training and business support model in the long-term without outside assistance.

We hope that by the end of this project USEA will be equipped with the training and tools to develop an in-depth understanding of the needs of its members, and that it can use this information to construct impactful business development service and investment pipelines. Like us at Challenges, USEA wants to significantly boost the ability of the solar energy sub-sector to reach the many Ugandan households who do not yet have access to electricity.

Image courtesy of Uganda Solar Energy Association.

 

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