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Exported to Africa, Brazil´s "Fomento" program boosts smallholder farmer production

Positive results emerge from an impact assessment of the implementation of a pilot project in Senegal and Malawi. This study should also help Brazil to evaluate the program

Farmers in Malawi: Adapting the "Fomento" to two African countries showed that cash transfers significantly helped family farmers to carry out planting and animal rearing projects. Photo: NASFAM / Malawi

Brasília, January 6, 2017 - After the PAA Africa, the exchange of knowledge about rural development policies continues between Brazil and countries in the African continent. A pilot project by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has involved adapting the Fomento Program, created in Brazil in 2011, to Malawi and Senegal. The results of the first two years (2014-16) of this initiative were revealed last month to a gathering of Brazilian Government managers. Some of the data is still preliminary.

In its first year in Senegal, the pilot project led to a 45% increase in the gross value of family farming output of CFAF 404,000 (around US$ 800), while livestock holdings increased by 35% and aggregated crop production by 39%.

Access the presentation with details of the results

All the data compares the groups that benefited from the program with control groups. The IFPRI conducted randomized controlled trials (RCT) to assess the results of the Fomento Program on household income, output and expenditure.

The main goals of the Program as originally designed are food security and the productive inclusion of family farmers. Follow-up research has confirmed the importance of combining technical assistance with cash transfers to obtain the best results.

In the case of Malawi, for example, IFPRI researchers Alan de Brauw, Kate Ambler and Susie Godlonton explain in their presentation that "extension and transfers together are more effective than transfers alone."

For Brazil, the results, although still preliminary have a dual role: they show that while the Program can be adapted to different contexts, there is also a need for the impact of the Program in Brazil itself to be evaluated.

According to Vitor Pereira, Evaluation Director of the Evaluation and Information Management Secretariat of the Ministry of Social and Agrarian Development (MDSA),."The results are encouraging, and highlight the importance of having a well-designed randomized evaluation of rural development in Brazil."

Vitor Pereira adds that "this evaluation shows how important the cash transfer component of rural development is. Extension services and management plans alone do not necessarily help family farmers to increase their output."

In Brazil, the Fomento Program is the responsibility of the MDSA and the Special Family Agriculture and Agrarian Development Secretariat (SEAD), now under the aegis of the Presidency of the Republic´s Chief of Staff´s Office (Casa Civil).

According to the MDSA, the Program assisted 120,000 families in the Brazilian semi-arid zone between 2012 and 2016, with R$ 2,400 (around US$ 730) transferred to individual poor farming families, divided in two payments to implement plan.

Adaptation

The project undertaken by IFPRI tailored the Fomento Program to the circumstances of Senegal and Malawi. According to Alan de Brauw, senior IFPRI researcher who presented the results of the evaluation in Brazil in December (see interview below), commented "We stuck to the general principles of the Program, but the rest of the work concerned the details, which were different."

For example, the lack of a Unified Registry or national database meant that the family farmers were selected in both countries not with the help of the federal government but with the support of rural associations: the Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations of Senegal (FONGS) and the National Association of Family Farmers of Malawi (NASFAM).

Cash release was also done differently: according to the rain calendar (in Senegal) or by payment in kind (in Malawi), unlike in Brazil where the cash is accessible by magnetic card.

The project was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Three questions for Alan de Brauw

Senior Researcher at IFPRI, Alan de Brauw has an extensive background in research focused on the evolution of the rural labor market in developing countries, as well as on the role of inputs in reducing poverty among family farmers. He played a part in the impact assessment of the Bolsa Familia Program in Brazil and in an evaluation of the introduction of orange sweet potato to reduce vitamin A deficiency in Mozambique and Uganda.

In an interview with the Brazil Learning Initiative for a World without Poverty (WWP), Alan de Brauw commented that the Program in Senegal and Malawi has other positive effects beyond the results so far obtained.

WWP – What were the most important results regarding the export of the Fomento Program to Africa?
Alan de Brauw - We are still working on the results from Malawi, but we found positive impacts on farmers´ livelihoods in Senegal, particularly in terms of agricultural output in Year 1 and the increase in livestock rearing in Year 2.

WWP – Do the results in Senegal and Malawi depend on the combination of extension services and cash transfers, or does cash transfer alone play a much larger role?
Brauw - We believe that some combination of the two is important and in fact complementary, but we don’t have much evidence to confirm this. We are still working on developing the project in Malawi, where we had the crosscutting design. What we can say is that the cash transfers definitely helped households to follow any recommendations or advice they got from the rural extension, and they may have helped in Malawi where they were specifically earmarked  for agriculture.

WWP – In addition to positive results in terms of food security, have there been any other positive effects during  implementation of the Fomento Program?
Brauw - In both countries, we have done a lot of capacity strengthening within the organizations that we worked with. That was another useful impact of the project. We have also been trying to engage with ministries in Brazil to show how we have conducted the process. We want to say basically to them “if you use a  really rigorous method to evaluate the project, it is easy to explain results and impacts”. We do not have this evaluation here yet and that is what we were trying to give back to Brazil.

 

Watch our video about a successful Fomento Implementation in Bahia

Marco Prates, WWP