In 2018, we completed baseline studies in Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa. We initiated the formation of farmer clusters, and the development of a regional farmer database that we directly support, to help better inform our project strategies. To gain a greater understanding of the fruit and vegetable sectors in-country, Solidaridad commissioned a vegetable market assessment and value chain analysis in South Africa, and an agricultural status report with special focus on fruits and vegetables in Zambia.
In Zambia, we launched a pilot livestock programme focusing on grazing land, climate mitigation and resilience. We learned that local knowledge and the country’s traditional farming practices were beneficial to the environment. The project seeks to restore practices that help the ecosystem thrive while increasing knowledge around cattle breeding from the market perspective. The Southern Africa Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is also evaluating the region and will highlight policy issues to ensure sustainable beef production in the industry.
Our work in Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi supported farmers along the soy value chain with a focus on the availability of good seeds and market linkages. Project activities were split in two, with some farmers focused on grain production and others on soy seed multiplication. We developed a training programme for each category centred around good agricultural practices. We also provided training on soy processing into soy milk, yogurt, cakes and enriched porridges at the household level.
Persistently low productivity and unstable cash crop prices have meant that little progress has been made in the face of the triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment within Southern Africa. As a result, these challenges continue to shape the social conditions of the region. They highlight the urgent need for vulnerable communities to build resilience and become sustainable and active participants in local and global supply chains.
Solidaridad’s response to these challenges has been largely programmatic. We have ensured that in all our Practice for Change projects, baseline studies were conducted to establish the status of the communities in which we work. Our approach has also been to ensure that our policy influencing work is properly resourced to build relationships with government technocrats. This creates the space for meaningful dialogue about policy changes that can benefit producers.
We have directed our efforts in the innovation areas to solve immediate and systemic challenges that have a direct and indirect impact on farmers’ ability to participate in supply chains. For example, our digital solutions team has worked hard to make the case for using digital tools to improve farmers’ insights into their production of both crops, livestock and market connectedness through the use of mobile applications, IoT weather stations and remote sensing technologies.
Our gender strategy has been broadened to respond to the limited participation of women and youth in value chains, with a focus on supporting the pathways of change in which women and young people must participate.
The climate innovation and landscape teams have been working on building appropriate solutions for rampant, poverty-driven deforestation by rural charcoal producers who supply urban energy merchants.
Our impact investment work has focused on the foundations of financial inclusion. This included building financial literacy, designing appropriate products, and building networks of blended finance sources to support producers and businesses in the region.
All these efforts are designed to support the creation of thriving and sustainable rural and urban economies as engines for wealth creation in the region.
Solidaridad Southern Africa continued to promote good agricultural practices in the production of sugarcane, soya, livestock, cotton, fruits and vegetables among smallholders in different programmes in South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. In total we supported over 18,000 smallholder producers and supported 64 producer cooperatives and associations across the region, with training on good agricultural practices.
One of our key achievements for 2018 was the development of a localized Farming Solution app for use by smallholder vegetable producers in Southern Africa. We piloted a holistic farm management model and introduced innovative digital offerings across our programmes, including remote sensing, and accessible and inexpensive soil scanning.
In Zambia, we worked with key partners from government and the private sector to develop the Live Cattle Grading App. This application encourages smallholder livestock producers to manage their livestock sustainably and helps them to access the higher value markets with their produce.
In Mozambique, we established a soy seed multiplication model, which aims to demonstrate that quality seed, combined with the application of good practices, can increase smallholder soy yields from an average of 400 kg/hectare to 1500kg/hectare. This can increase incomes by at least 12400 SHF across Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
In South Africa we have been piloting the Bulk Water Supply Model with partners for the last four years. Sugarcane outgrowers involved in the project continued to maintain their yields during the region’s worst drought in 90 years, outperforming even neighbouring commercial producers. This project concluded in 2018, and we hope to use the proven model for upscaling similar projects in our other target regions.
The growth path of Solidaridad Southern Africa was similar to that of Solidaridad East Africa and contributed just over 1 million euros own-contracted income to the total income of Solidaridad Network in 2018. This was considerably higher than budgeted due to being awarded the EU Switch Africa contract. In addition, fund utilization on a sugarcane project within the Sustainable Water Fund of the Netherlands Enterprise was escalated during 2018 as the final year of the three year project. Also for this region, there are plans to contribute to further growth of the network by contracting funds from their own region. To that end, legal entities were set up in Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe besides the existing entity in South Africa. For more details, see also the links to the officially audited financial statements below.
In January 2018 Solidaridad Southern Africa had a staff of 24 full-time equivalents (FTE). By 31 December 2018 there was a total of 42 FTE employees, an increase of 57% across the region. Over the same period, the number of male FTEs increased from 15 to 22. As a percentage, the number of male staff members decreased from 62% to 52%, while the number of female FTEs increased from 9 to 20 – an increase from 38% to 48% of total staff. Ensuring gender balance was a key focus area for the HR team in 2018.
COMMUNICATION & CAMPAIGNING
Solidaridad Southern Africa’s internal and external communications were strongly hinged on the global strategy of maximizing brand visibility within the local context, profiling our work through news articles and thought-leadership pieces.
To strengthen the staff’s ability to promote Solidaridad every time they engaged with stakeholders, we developed marketing collateral. This took the form of country brochures and position papers for all our commodities and innovation areas and served to ensure that all communications reaching an external audience were aligned with our global brand. We set up social media accounts that have proven a good way to keep our audience abreast with our work in the region. With 143 followers gained by the end of 2018, Twitter attracted partners and media stakeholders. Our Facebook page, with 177 followers, has been great in attracting farmers throughout the region. We specifically chose to focus on organic growth for all social media platforms to ascertain quality engagement.
We published a total of seven articles on the Solidaridad Network website, which attracted 1358 page views. While we were only able to put out one thought-leadership article, we reinforced our stance with speaking engagements at six conferences in South Africa and Zambia.
PR also proved to be an effective way to profile our work to prospective partners and funders. In South Africa we secured two radio interviews and one television interview at prime time. Through this exposure, we secured a partnership with the biggest data network host in the country, who is now an infrastructure partner on the Switch Africa Green project, funded by the European Union. Two of our programmes were profiled on four mainstream newspapers and two online platforms. In Zambia we secured one television interview and 15 newspaper articles profiling our work in two publications, interviews on two national television stations, and three radio stations. In Mozambique we published two articles in the national newspaper.
In 2019 we plan to build on our work in improving brand visibility among both our international and domestic audiences. We aim to do this by increasing the number of articles for the network site, building multimedia collateral to better promote our impact stories, as well as intensifying PR efforts within Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi.
The official audited annual accounts of the legal enities within Solidaridad Southern Africa can be downloaded below: