In Tunisia, Connexus serves as a subcontractor to Chemonics on the USAID/Tunisia Business Reform and Competitiveness II Project (BRCP II), which looks to work with private sector firms to identify and overcome business constraints to make them more competitive, generate an increased demand for their products and services, and lead to job creation.
Connexus is providing both long and short-term support, including a long-term Finance Specialist who will lead Connexus’ activities on the project. Connexus’ role will be to lead the project’s objectives for SME access to finance, provide training and technical assistance to financial institutions to improve lending processes to SMEs, assist client firms to increase their capabilities to access loans.
As part of the Linking Infrastructure, Finance and Farms to Cashew (LIFFT Cashew) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA FAS) and led by Shelter For Life, Connexus plays a leading role in facilitating access to agricultural finance, investment, and marketing as needed to strengthen the cashew-growing regions of Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea Bissau. The six-year project aims to increase the volume and profitability of cashew processors, improve bargaining power of smallholder cashew producers, create jobs, especially for women and youth, facilitate outside investment, and strengthen the regional competitiveness of the cashew value chain.
In May 2018, Connexus’ President, Anita Campion, and Project Associate, Liuben Chipev, adapted the two-day training, “Developing and Financing Agricultural Value Chains” to the needs of the LIFFT-Cashew project, including integration of recent market information related to the cashew value chains in The Gambia (in English) and Senegal (in French). The Connexus team first conducted the training in Banjul, Gambia, and then again the following week in Ziguinchor, Senegal.
50 representatives from several financial institutions attended the successful training, helping them to understand many of the constraints in the cashew value chain, useful tools for how to finance agricultural value chains, and how their collaboration with the LIFFT project could help unlock new market opportunities for value chain actors in West Africa. While in each country, the international team took the opportunity to visit local cashew processors to gain a better understanding of the business model and related costs, to integrate into case studies in preparation for future trainings.
The 2018 Cracking the Nut conference took place on June 12-13, 2018 in Antigua, Guatemala at the Hotel Soleil La Antigua. The conference focused on encouraging the uptake of new technologies for agriculture and access to finance, in a way that promotes resilience. Connexus Corporation worked with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), USAID, Feed the Future, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Chemonics International, and NCBA CLUSA to organize the two-day learning event, which highlighted the broad range of technologies and approaches available to mitigate and adapt to global changes related to rural and agricultural development.
The conference brought together approximately 200 of the world’s leading industry thought leaders from private sector companies, financial institutions, investors, donors, and development practitioners to discuss “tough nuts” related to promoting agriculture technology adoption and resilience.
Visit the conference website to read more, and stay tuned for news about the conference publication, coming later this summer!
In Zambia, Connexus serves as a subcontractor to Crown Agents on the USAID Accountable Governance for Improved Service Delivery (AGIS) project, which looks to improve internal controls, budgeting and financial management of various Zambian ministries.
Connexus is providing both long and short-term support, including our long-term Communications Specialist who is leading all communications efforts. Additionally, Connexus’ gender expert is currently working on the development of a Gender Integration Strategy that aims to increase the number of women in budget execution, as well as their substantive involvement in procurement, accounting, and auditing within target ministries.
As part of USDA’s grant “Linking Infrastructure, Finance and Farms to Cashew (LIFFT Cashew),” awarded to Shelter For Life in 2017, Connexus will play a leading role in facilitating access to agricultural finance, investment, and marketing as needed to strengthen the cashew-growing regions of Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea Bissau.
In particular, Connexus will build the supply and demand for agricultural finance in all three countries. Connexus will also work with Shelter For Life to set up a Cashew Fund to support equity and other investments in cashew value chains as a way to stimulate long-term direct investments and value chain finance as needed to meet international quantity and quality expectations.
Collectively, the six-year project aims to increase the volume and profitability of cashew processors, improve bargaining power of smallholder cashew producers, create jobs, especially for women and youth, facilitate outside investment, and strengthen the regional competitiveness of the cashew value chain. By strengthening the cashew value chain at crucial points, the project intends to see wider economic and social benefits for project communities, including the promotion of peace-building and reconciliation outcomes.
Connexus recently conducted a detailed crop value chain and market systems analysis in Ethiopia for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The main purpose was to identify target crop value chains that offer the greatest potential for expansion and upgrading for two CRS programs in the country: the Livelihoods Resilience of Oromia (LOR) activity, implemented by CRS and Meki Catholic Secretariat (MCS), and the Development Funded Security Activity (DFSA), a Feed the Future initiative.
Connexus’ team of consultants collected primary and secondary data through interviews and focus group discussions with key value chain actors across 14 woredas (districts), and utilized different tools like territorial scoping and value chain analysis to identify and prioritize potential value chains for the projects to work with. The team then developed a competitiveness and upgrading strategy for each proposed crop value chain along with various business plan models.
The results of the analysis will help CRS and MCS implement value chain development activities and upgrading strategies that not only foster livelihood and income generation, but also contribute to positive nutrition outcomes and are inclusive to different genders and youth. This will help producers (men, women and youth) and groups become market-ready and engage with sustainable value chains and markets for economic growth and poverty alleviation.