Activity Manual Preparation: Community Based Solution Providers
Terms of Reference: Activity Manual Preparation: Community Based Solution Providers
Anticipated Level of Effort (LOE): 35 days
Period of performance ends by October 31, 2020
Community based solution providers (CBSP) are agents who provide solutions for agriculture, livestock, health, nutrition and water services to their communities. These agents are variously referred to as last-mile agents or agri-preneurs and bring the needed inputs and services to clients in remote locations. NCBA CLUSA adopted the model in its PROFIT project in Zambia in the 2000’s to support the dissemination of improved farming practices. These early agents were focused on “services” rather than “solutions” and were sales agents of the large agrobusinesses. Over time, the model has been replicated in Burkina Faso, DR Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal and Uganda, and it has evolved to fit different contexts. Working more as free agents with networks of suppliers and technologies, NCBA CLUSA’s model in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger has developed the CBSP into agents of change who provide innovative, nutrition-led agricultural (NLA) solutions to producers, including women. Women and young people play a leading role as CBSPs, serving their peers and communities.
CBSPs are trusted neighbors who pursue a double bottom-line—income generation for themselves and providing social and economic benefits to their communities. The model has been refined to address gaps and needs in each community. The CBSP model ranges from last mile agro-preneurs who work for companies to community social entrepreneurs who make a profit serving their communities. CBSPs are drivers of social behavior change who provide knowledge and make the endeavor financially sustainable by selling goods or services. They play a pivotal role in linking producers and organizations to NLA information and markets.
In practice, however, the CBSP model is more nuanced, and the CBSPs operate between the poles of company agents or free agents. Many are linked to small or medium agri-businesses who provide support, inputs, credit and networks. The approach is adapted to context, though the considerations for appropriately adapting the model have not been fully articulated.
Training sessions occur where CBSPs are located. For less experienced CBSPs who have limited exposure to entrepreneurship and who are starting their businesses for the first time, such as youth and women, we train and mentor to build basic business skills. The training starts with entrepreneurship skills (8-days in two phases including practical application of skills and development of a business plan). For more experienced operators, their training is condensed to 1-day and focuses on the spirit of social entrepreneurship in which the profit motive is balanced with serving the community. Targeted capacity-building in business skills such as financial management, contract negotiation and marketing is provided to groups of CBSPs when those shared capacity gaps are identified. These trainings typically last one to three days.
Technical training is then tailored to the individual CBSP’s line of business (specific services and goods). For example, veterinary assistants are trained in animal health, animal nutrition and vaccination protocols, and linked to government or private veterinary services. Ag input CBSPs are trained in seed varieties, selecting the right fertilizers depending on crop and soil type. They may also provide services, such as ripping or applying pesticides. Technical training in products and their usage is provided by private sector partners who are engaging the CBSPs to increase their distribution channels. Technical training in topics that do not interest the private sector (market failure), such as conservation agriculture practices, production of micro-nutrient rich porridges or sustainable fodder production, is provided by the project technical specialists or government agents to CBSPs. The target CBSPs include entrepreneurial lead farmers and leaders of women’s groups.
We encourage CBSP groups for cross learning and economies of scale through networks such as WhatsApp. In Senegal, CBSPs are certified after a course of training as “CultiVert agents” and they often work in regional networks to obtain inputs and ideas. Mentorship and group counselling through associations, networks and cooperatives is a strong component of NCBA CLUSA’s work. In the Youth Empowerment through Agriculture (YETA) project in Uganda, youth organized into associations, benefited from peer learning and were able to increase their entrepreneurial endeavors and success rate. Groups are also more easily linked to community or business mentors who provide valuable support and guidance to young people. Experienced CBSPs are organized in USAID’s Yaajeende or Kawolor projects in Senegal to form a social franchise network called Cultivert. In the USAID|REGIS-ER project in Niger and Burkina Faso successful CBSPs were organized into technical clusters. These groupings encourage business improvements through shared experience and problem solving, aggregating goods and services for large sales contracts and bulk purchases of inputs. In Mozambique, CBSPs have been trained by private agrodealers and certified seed producers, which has proven to be a cost-effective, sustainable approach that also builds on-going business relationships.
The wealth of experience summarized in the introduction has not been adequately documented or codified. In fact, there is considerable internal debate about the actual model, ranging from the PROFIT agrobusiness agent to the Senegal social entrepreneur, or even whether the CBSP is a “service” provider or a “solution” provider. Our ability to adapt to the context underpins the success, but there is little documented guidance on what factors to consider when adapting, or what the core features are (non-negotiables). This results in reinventing the wheel.
This lack of documentation – a manual – also limits our ability to communicate (e.g., to donors) about our model in a lucid and compelling way. Aside from not telling the story, we are not able to convince prospective partners that we have the methodology on the shelf and ready to implement. We waste a lot of time at project inception in developing training tools that should be ready; and we inevitably follow a path of trial and error to adapt to the context, rather that shorten a process by building on existing knowledge. The lack of a manual and curriculum impedes replication and scaling up by other partners who do not have access to the tools.
The lack of standard guidelines and tools also impedes consistent implementation across our programs. There are no standards for ensuring quality, and no guidelines for measuring impact. In many projects, our basic monitoring of the results is spotty, and overall, it is impossible to tally the impact across programs – for example to give global results for presentation to a public audience. We are not able to analyze data, to identify where things are succeeding or failing and to investigate further into the factors of success (which can facilitate scale up) or the reasons for failure (to inform project management). Our inability to report things like gender and age breakdown, average incomes (by gender or line of business), number of clients served, impedes our effort to sell our competitive advantage. At present, our implementation of the CBSP model is not sufficiently evidence based.
To address these problems, this consultancy will have three objectives:
- Describe clearly and in compelling language our CBSP model. What is it, and how does it differ from others? Allowing for a range of approaches (PROFIT versus CultiVert), there are common components, and parameters for determining whether to go with one approach or the other. This should be clearly articulated.
- Design and draft a project implementation manual that includes contextual considerations (or decision tree) for appropriately adapting the model, the process of selection, qualities of a successful CBSP, core training curriculum, including core workforce skill development, business planning, relationships with private sector, developing a client base, use of platforms for managing and marketing. That manual should include performance standards and tools for quality assurance (e.g., supervisor check lists).
- Develop a core set of indicators, performance indicator reference sheets (PIRS) and guidance and recommendations for using the data for project management. Indicators can draw on the Feed the Future standard indicators where appropriate.
- Review existing documentation from current and recent projects, including Kawolor, PROFIT, PROMAC, REGIS-ER, Yaajeende and YETA.
- Identify gaps in the curriculum and research existing tools, particularly for business development skills, looking at sites such as ILO.
- Order these documents into a compendium; edit into a manual format.
- Identify issues that require discussion, organize discussion group meetings with key internal stakeholders, including project teams. Develop consensus where possible or identify points of divergence. (A useful tool may be a decision tree, allowing programmers to follow a path to determine the approach.)
- Draft manual. The consultant will not be required to format, but s/he should prepare sketches of any graphics that will be incorporated into the manual, as well as suggest the types of graphics (icons, etc) that should be inserted.
- Identify the core indicators and draft PIRS.
- Semi-structured focus group discussion guide.
- Discussion notes.
- Manual, in perfect English, but unformatted (Word).
- A compelling description of NCBA CLUSA’s approach to CBSPs (around two pages).
- Set of indicators PIRS.
Duration: 35 days level of effort. Period of performance ends by October 31, 2020.
- Experienced in agriculture, conservation farming, nutrition-led agriculture, or food systems.
- Experienced in market access or value chains.
- Deep understanding of NCBA CLUSA’s signature approach to community solution providers.
- Understanding and commitment to the cooperative movement, the CLUSA Approach, and CLUSA’s past work in CBSPs.
- Written fluency in English. Proficiency (ability to read and listen) in French. Proficiency in Portuguese an advantage.
This consultancy will require no travel. The consultant will need a reasonable internet connection to conduct interview and group discussions using Teams, Zoom or another platform. Depending on time zones, there may be some early morning or evening conversations.
- Resume highlighting relevant experience (no page limit).
- A completed Biographical Data Form with current daily rate and salary history, and proposed daily rate in USD for completion of the work defined above.
Submissions must be received by 5pm EDT on Wednesday, July 1. Applications must be sent to Douglas Steinberg at DSteinberg@ncba.coop.