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. 

 

 

 

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

 

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Small businesses praise Challenges Zambia after training in financial management and leadership

Musika Zambia Challenges Group

Challenges Zambia has been working with the Zambian non-profit company, Musika, as part of our goal to achieve poverty reduction by ensuring agricultural markets work for all stakeholders, in particular Zambia’s rural poor. Musika is supported by the Swedish Embassy in Zambia, the Norwegian Government’s NORAD and IRISH AID, which seeks to stimulate private investment in the agricultural market and has a particular focus on the smallholder and emerging farmer sectors.

Musika’s approach to reducing poverty and creating wealth in rural Zambia involves stimulating the development of a supportive market environment that provides long-term and sustainable opportunities for farmers to invest in their own production and to use the markets to graduate out of poverty.

On the back of a survey of the sector, Musika identified gaps in financial management and leadership skills among small rural agribusinesses, aggregators and veterinary service providers, and decided upon a programme of training in financial management and leadership in order to build capacity within the sector.

Following a bidding process, Challenges was appointed to deliver a series of training sessions to small business holders in the Copperbelt and Central provinces of Zambia.

One of the key modules covered was “Meeting Stakeholder and Quality Needs”. As part of the training Challenges consultants took the participants through a series of strategic business activities and strategic assessments. These included: Understanding your Stakeholders’ Needs; Stakeholder Analysis; SMART Objectives; SWOT/PEST analysis; and Porter’s Five Forces.

  • SMART is a mnemonic used to describe the criteria for the setting of objectives. It stands for: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; Time-bound.
  • SWOT analysis is a strategic tool for an individual or organisation to measure its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
  • PEST analysis is a framework of macro-environmental factors (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological) to be considered while undertaking a larger strategic analysis of a business or market research.
  • Porter’s Five Forces is a tool individuals and businesses can use to assess competition. They are: Threat of new entrants; Threat of substitutes; Bargaining power of customers; Bargaining power of suppliers; and Competitive rivalry.

Results of Challenges Zambia training

The training comprised of group activities that encouraged discussions and debates from all learners, each of whom was encouraged to use their own business experience as case studies. This was crucial as participants were able to reflect on past experiences (both successes and failures!), and consider how circumstances might be different should they experience the same in the future.

A total of 64 participants across three towns in Zambia – Kapiri Mponshi and Kabwe in Central Province and Kitwe in Copperbelt Province – took part in the training. The majority of participants did not know each other, and the interactive training created a lively environment that enabled participants to feel comfortable and to interact with both the trainers and participants.

All participants at each of the three sites received a days’ training in the following topics: SWOT analysis; PESTEL analysis; Stakeholder analysis; Stakeholder interest matrix; Empathy map; and setting SMART objectives.

Participants were excited to learn how to apply the above tools in their everyday business decisions. Examples used during the training helped them realise how their businesses would benefit from this newly acquired knowledge.

As the graphs and feedback results below show, this was a training session that was warmly received by its participants. We will in due course report

on the long-term impact on the businesses and the people who undertook the training.

Musika trainees’ comments on the Challenges Zambia Business Development training

Our key takeaway from this event:
“I have learnt the importance of management of clients, good relationship with stakeholders and customers, SWOT & PESTEL analysis for my business”
Mwape Chanda
Kitwe participant

“Before the training, I did not have knowledge on how to plan in business for it to be managed well. I can now confidently plan for my business to avoid losses.”
Benjamin Chaaba
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

Our views on the different aspects of the training:
“We all participated in the training, it kept us awake. Please continue with this type of training”
Margaret Chimanga
Kabwe Participant

“The training was good and examples were clear and time manageable. The training should continue to teach business people”
Jason Ngulukila
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

Our thoughts regarding the sessions or overall agenda:
“I very much enjoyed the PESTLE and SWOT analysis sessions as we used personal business examples and experiences to learn.”
Innocent Phiri
Kitwe Participant

“Very interesting and easy to grasp, it was very educative we look forward to more trainings delivered in this manner.”
David Mweo Musonda
Kabwe Participant

Our overall feedback for the event?
“The training was different from the usual trainings we attend where we just listen and not actively participate. It was great.”
Jess Phiri
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

“The trainers interacted well with us, it was a great training.”
Julius Chisenga
Kitwe Participant


Feedback from Challenges Zambia training

 

Graph 1 - Challenges Zambia Musika Case Study

 


Graph 2 - Challenges Zambia Musika Case Study

Graph 3 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


Graph 4 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


Graph 5 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


Read more

Pioneering research prompts banking giant Prudential to develop bespoke insurance products for Zambia’s entrepreneurs

Prudential Zambia Challenges Group

The Challenges team in Zambia has undertaken a ground-breaking assessment of 80 small and medium enterprises across 18 sectors to understand their needs as part of an innovative partnership with global insurance giant Prudential and Zambian enterprise agency PEPZ. Their findings have helped Prudential shape a new range of financial product and services geared towards SMEs, while also deconstructing some of the negative myths around insurance.

Challenges is committed to supporting business and helping them grow, through implementing good operational and business practice, and encouraging the development of SME-centred products and services. We know that as businesses grow, everyone benefits through increased earnings and stable jobs leading to growth in the wider economy.

One of the issues sometimes overlooked by entrepreneurs and small business owners is life insurance, an area often clouded by myth and misinformation.

Aware of the potential to support Zambia’s SMEs and the need to generate greater awareness of its products, the global insurance giant Prudential partnered with the Challenges team in Zambia, tapping into their expert knowledge of the SME landscape and its extensive network of contacts and businesses. Zambian enterprise agency PEPZ also supported the project, which aimed to deliver a much-needed life insurance product to small business owners; people who were all too often excluded from traditional products and who, according to our findings, felt excluded from such offerings or felt they didn’t apply to them.

Insurance in Zambia

Market penetration for life insurance in Zambia is minuscule; for the past few years, it’s sat at less than 1% of a population of some 17 million people. But it’s not just life insurance; insurance products as a whole are only activated up by about 5% of the population.

Across many business owners, we found that there was a widespread belief that insurance was expensive, sometimes prohibitively so, while many people considered it an unnecessary cost, rather than an important asset to their business.

Aware of these issues, Prudential sought to design a product that catered to SMEs and entrepreneurs, leading to the PRU SMART Entrepreneur insurance, the first of its kind in Southern Africa.

The PRU SMART Entrepreneur is designed to provide Group Life Assurance Cover to small businesses, who, because of the unstructured nature of SME and entrepreneurs’ operations and lack of formal salaries, make them unattractive for conventional Group Life cover. The new Prudential product was designed specifically for the SME and entrepreneur, with the aim of increasing the financial inclusion of these businesses. The research undertaken by Challenges consultants was integral to the development of this innovative insurance product.

Prior to its launch, Prudential wanted to assess the product design and its planned distribution to SMEs and entrepreneurs, commissioning the Challenges team to undertake a far-reaching and in-depth market research project in Lusaka and in Zambia’s Copperbelt provinces. The research had two aims: to test Prudential’s own assumptions, and to ensure maximise the customer value that Prudential could deliver with the product, bringing greater benefit to the business people.

The Challenges researchers found that businesses are willing to pay more if they think the product gives them a truly special and significant value, and if the product is presented to them in just the right way.

The team also found that the majority of SMEs (62%) had set aside savings for when unexpected events that could affect their business, such as death, disability and critical illnesses.

Our analysis showed there was significant potential for the Prudential product, and following the research, we recommended a number of changes to the PRU SMART product. We also found that although there was clearly a market for this product, customer education and intelligent marketing would be invaluable to help the potential customers among Zambia’s SME community understand and appreciate the PRU SMART insurance. 

Key findings: 

  • Majority of SME-owners prepared for unexpected events, relying on savings, family, etc
  • Research spanned 79 SMEs across 18 sectors, ranging from renewables and health to tourism and transport.
  • Almost half of SMEs had some form of motor insurance, while nearly one in three had fire/theft insurance.
  • About one in six SMEs had no insurance whatsoever.

Two-thirds of SMEs agreed the PRU SMART product met their needs. Only 5% said it didn’t.

Read more
Latest Articles