Committed to meeting the challenges of rising global food demand, the international nonprofit organization Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) provides assistance for farmers and rural entrepreneurs in less developed areas of the world. CNFA collaborates with local communities, governments, foundations, and businesses to create and implement agricultural development projects based on an enterprise model that helps beneficiaries generate and maintain income.
To support the growth of agricultural economies, CNFA’s initiatives aim to increase access to markets, facilitate expanded financing opportunities, establish reliable input supply channels, and strengthen agribusiness competitiveness through improvements in productivity, processing, and marketing. Through its emphasis on inclusive agricultural development, CNFA creates greater opportunity for those from underserved groups to participate in market-oriented farming and small- to medium-sized agricultural enterprises.
CNFA also helps preserve human and natural resources through sustainable agricultural practices that incorporate the knowledge of local residents while accounting for the specific cultural, geographic, and climatic demands of each community. Complementing support from donors and public institutions, CNFA builds partnerships with the private sector. Its aim is to effectively leverage the capital resources, capabilities, and technological innovations of these organizations toward the aid of beneficiaries and the promotion of positive transformation in emerging economies.
CFNA was founded in 1985 as a vehicle for increasing grassroots discourse on the inclusion of minorities, farmers, and agribusinesses in global economic growth efforts. The organization has since expanded, with nearly 300 staff members and offices in 16 countries across Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Over the last three decades, CNFA has engaged in activities to foster agrarian enterprise and improve the livelihoods of people in rural communities in more than 40 countries, including Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Farm Service Alliance
Exemplifying CNFA’s previous work in Afghanistan, the Afghanistan Farm Service Alliance (AFSA) was directed by CNFA as a dynamic four-year program framed within the Global Development Alliance model for public-private partnerships. Budgeted for $9.5 million, AFSA launched with the principal goal of raising incomes for Afghan farmers.
Key to attaining this objective, AFSA instituted viable and enduring infrastructure for improved delivery of commercial input products and farm services. Besides securing prompt, dependable, and economical availability of supplies such as seed, fertilizer, and crop protection materials at the appropriate time in the cultivation process, the program also provided farmers with education in leading production practices through the application of agricultural extension training.
Additionally, AFSA increased access to credit for agricultural producers and connected farmers to broader markets for cash transactions. This helped them achieve the greatest advantages possible from the enhancements in harvest quality and yield obtained with better inputs.
Establishing Farm Service Centers
Deploying an approach centered on Farm Service Centers (FSCs) as a basis for feasible entrepreneurial ventures and long-term agricultural development in Afghanistan, AFSA established 18 rural FSCs in 17 provinces. These locations ranged from Helmand and Kandahar in the southwestern region of the country to Kunduz and Takhar in the northeast.
FSCs serve as the primary sites for selling seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, and other agricultural supplies to Afghans living in rural areas. Moreover, FSCs act as a space for facilitating agricultural extension and delivering such integral services as financing, output marketing, and post-harvest handling.
Across Afghanistan, the FSCs established by CNFA generate benefits for more than 95,000 rural households and collectively provide employment for 388 individuals. Matching grants offered through AFSA secured startup financing for the FSCs. Moreover, all FSC owners and managers also received capacity-building training from CNFA in areas such as business plan development, growth strategy, inventory management, bookkeeping, and marketing.
Uniting FSCs through a Collective Association
As a means of bolstering the ability of FSCs to offer quality of services, CNFA enabled the formation of the Farm Service Center Association of Afghanistan (FSCAA) in 2009. FSCAA functions as a professional alliance and steering committee that determines common standards of practice for all stores. It also serves as a platform for FSCs to work collectively on advancing their business opportunities.
During the implementation of AFSA, CNFA assisted the leaders of FSCAA with the technical aspects of building business contacts. CFNA also focused on developing the association into a durable organization suitably equipped to carry on an ongoing expansion of agricultural supply networks in Afghanistan beyond the scheduled time frame of AFSA.
Along with all 18 FSCs, FSCAA has expanded its membership to include one agro-dealer and six agricultural supplies depots. As a registered organization with the Afghan government’s Ministry of Commerce and the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, FSCAA mediates connections between FSCs and various public and private sector entities, including development aid organizations.
FSCs rely on these crucial connections to procure resources and boost their capacity to render goods and services to their local communities. In appropriate scenarios, FSCAA also undertakes bidding on large-input supply contracts as the sole, collective representative of all members.
Overall Impact of AFSA on Improving the Livelihood of Afghans
Guided by the principle of placing program ownership in the possession of beneficiaries, CNFA relinquished the management of AFSA in 2010, transferring administration to a team entirely comprised of Afghan citizens.
The myriad activities pursued through AFSA to increase income opportunities in rural communities include the provision of financial assistance to 10,126 farmers through program-backed funding agreements. Augmenting such financial aid, AFSA provided short-term training in agricultural productivity measures for over 37,690 farmers, among them several hundred individuals traditionally blocked from full participation in the agricultural sector.
Perhaps of greatest note, matching grants given by CNFA to help FSCs establish operations produced significant growth in Afghanistan’s agricultural economy. AFSA grants supported Afghan-owned FSC stores that drove increases in the sale of legal goods by over $49 million.