All of CASA’s implementing teams are adapting their activities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. CASA works with smallholders and agri-SMEs that are facing disruptions to their ability to get goods to market, to access raw materials and inputs and to hire additional labour. Demand for produce has also been severely disrupted for some project partners – for example, in Nepal and India dairy SMEs report a 50% drop in demand for processed products and in Uganda sesame farmers are suffering from a sharp drop in international prices following reduced demand from China and Europe.
1. Value Chain Support
CASA has teams based in Nepal, Uganda and Malawi working intensively in key value chains to support SME growth and smallholder livelihoods. These teams are now broadening the number of SME and producer organisation partners that they work with to adapt to the disruptions of COVID-19. Examples of support include:
- Aquaculture: CASA is working with local SMEs, universities and government to assess the opportunity to produce floating fish feed domestically following import disruptions caused by COVID-19. Support includes identifying equipment requirements, financing and market opportunities.
- Poultry: CASA is working with poultry business associations, laboratories and the government to assess how to increase the availability of poultry vaccines that will enable local producers to meet increased domestic demand following import restrictions on poultry. Options for domestic production and changes to vaccine import regulations are being considered.
- Beans: CASA is working with farmer cooperatives to increase the use of digital transaction platforms and e-learning and information platforms and is engaging the government on reductions to mobile money transaction charges.
- Sesame: CASA is working with SMEs and sesame cooperatives to identify new domestic markets and processing opportunities for sesame following a sharp drop in international demand.
- Dairy: CASA is working with partner SMEs to support them to access short term working capital and soft loans to help them survive the significant drop in demand for milk products. CASA is also supporting the development of products with longer shelflife to reduce losses from future disruptions.
- Vegetables: CASA is working with partner SMEs to support the introduction of online order and delivery services and to identify new sources of capital to help the firms survive the disruption in its markets.
2. Technical Assistance Facility
The CASA TAF is now providing core business technical assistance to firms with sizable smallholder sourcing footprints in order to support the long-term viability of these inclusive business models. It has a global remit with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and poorer states of India and is currently working in Mozambique, Ethiopia, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya and India. Current COVID-19 responses projects include:
Vegetable grower and exporter in Mozambique: CASA is working with this firm to design an expanded outgrower scheme for smallholder vegetables and chilis. CASA is now providing core business technical assistance to the firm aimed at planning for different scenarios in the crisis, identifying supply chain bottlenecks and strategies to overcome them, reducing operating costs and planning future production levels.
Dairy company in north eastern India: CASA is building on its partnership with this firm aimed at expanding its collection of smallholder milk by providing core business technical assistance to help the firm weather the current crisis. Areas of support include:
- Facilitating access to short-term finance to support a pilot to convert surplus supply into milk powder for future use, thereby extending the shelf-life of the product and safeguarding farmer incomes.
- Strategic and diagnostic support to build in risk management and sustainability considerations to sales diversification plans e.g. contactless home delivery solutions
- Gathering on-the-ground SHF level insights (exploring digital options) to inform adapted company SHF engagement and loyalty strategy
3. Research Communication
CASA’s learning and influencing facility has responded rapidly to the need for greater evidence and insights on the impact of COVID-19 on food security, livelihoods and commercial agriculture. Key activities include:
- Online event platform: In April CASA launched a highly popular series of four webinars under the banner “Rethinking Agri-Business Investments Through the Pandemic” looking at the response to COVID-19 for investors and SMEs in emerging markets. To date events have been supported by over 100 participants each and speakers from key organisations such as CDC, IFC, Sainsbury’s, IFAD and others have joined the panels.
Watch a video of the highlights.
- Rapid market assessments: CASA has commissioned rapid market assessments of the impact of COVID-19 in Malawi, Uganda (bean and sesame sub-sectors and associated blog) and Nepal (and associated blog), and will synthesise these analyses into key insights and recommendations for investors, donors and governments.
- COVID-19 impact on agri-business publication: paper synthesising evidence from CASA’s rapid market assessments, other agri-business CMPs, plus industry and private sector bodies on the emerging impact of COVID-19 on agri-business will be published.
- CASA partner IIED launched a webinar in May looking at how to support coffee farmers in their negotiations with offtakers during the disruption of COVID-19.
- CASA partner Malabo Montpellier Panel is planning two events for the second half of 2020 looking at how to stimulate an economic recovery in agriculture that is more inclusive and more sustainable (Building Back Better).