Connexus is working with Winrock International and USAID to implement the Feed the Future Nigeria AEAS Activity, a five-year project that leverages the power of Nigerian entrepreneurship to facilitate learning, replication, and scale around alternative models of extension to increase access and adoption of agricultural technologies for at least two million smallholder farmers (SHFs) in Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kebbi, and Niger states. Using “Lean Farm” principles and tools to develop a deep understanding of existing production systems to identify the most impactful practices (MIPs) to improve efficiency and increase return on investment for farmers, AEAS leverages micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as change agents around on-farm opportunities in the cowpea, maize, soybean, rice, and aquaculture value chains.
Connexus facilitates private sector engagement and works with MSMEs (including farmers) to connect them with financial institutions (FIs) and design, pilot, and scale suitable financial products, including bundled financing packages for SHFs, especially women and youth.
In Year 1, Connexus interviewed 10 FIs and 25 private sector firms and integrated the findings into the Mapping to Markets and Lean Analysis. Connexus also designed and delivered a training of trainers on Creative Approaches to Smallholder Finance to more than 40 representatives from partner institutions and is now working with them to design and implement action plans. In Year 2, Connexus trained 12 partner FIs on Agricultural Finance Product Design, Adaptation, and Delivery mechanisms and worked with them to develop financial products that will support MIPs and upgrading in the target value chains. We conducted 13 focus groups with community-based informal FIs to document additional models to support underserved SHFs. We also trained 199 participants on business development services to improve financial literacy and management.
To date, the activity has forged relationships with 215 MSMEs committed to commercializing and integrating the MIPs into their service delivery models. Applying a gender and social inclusion lens, Connexus is linking partner FIs to SHFs with an emphasis on women and youth, with an estimated pipeline of $26.2 million. As of the end of Q3Y2, we leveraged almost $3 million in private investment and $2 million in ag-related finance. To date, the Activity has benefited 4,119 Nigerians, including 23% women and 31% youth, who have increased access to productive resources. This includes 377 new jobs created, especially for women and youth. Over the life of the project, Connexus will help facilitate $60 million in agriculture-related financing linked with improved agricultural extension and advisory services.