TechnoServe’s 2020 Year in Review: Building Resilience to Overcome COVID-19

From launching a new program to help small shops respond to COVID-19, to using remote sensing technology to map cashew production in Benin, here are some of the highlights of an eventful year. 

In TechnoServe’s 2020 year in review, we reflect on a difficult year. It’s safe to say that not much about 2020 went according to plan. But despite the unexpected challenges of this year, there was still much to celebrate. TechnoServe worked with determined entrepreneurs and farmers around the world to keep their businesses and their dreams alive. Read a few of the highlights from this year below. 

Decorative graphic for TechnoServe’s Year in Review 2020 for the month of February. The left half of the horizontal, rectangular graphic element features a circular photograph of two hands holding bright red seeds, overlaid on a textured, off-white background. On the right side of the photo, there is a teal header reading “February 2020” above 5 lines of dark grey text: “TechnoServe Named Origin Charity of the Year” for coffee work.”

FEBRUARY: TechnoServe Named “Origin Charity of the Year” for Coffee Work

In February, the National Coffee Association named TechnoServe the “Origin Charity of the Year” for its work supporting smallholder coffee farmers worldwide. For more than five decades, TechnoServe has worked with coffee farmers in Africa and Latin America by providing access to the skills and resources they need to produce high-quality coffee. 

Equipped with knowledge and skills from TechnoServe’s programs, farmers can start earning a better income. Learning best practices and effective approaches opens the door to new opportunities that extend far beyond the farm. The “Origin Charity of the Year” award recognizes organizations that have positively impacted coffee-growing communities around the world. This story is just one of many we found when selecting highlights for TechnoServe’s 2020 year in review.

”April” Graphic for TechnoServe’s Year in Review 2020 blog. A circular photo on the left side shows two men smiling as a customer makes a purchase from a small retail shop. A teal header at the top of the right column says “April 2020,” above the section title in grey font, “TechnoServe Responds to emerging COVID Crisis with New Guidance for Entrepreneurs.”

APRIL: TechnoServe Responds to Emerging COVID Crisis with New Guidance for Entrepreneurs

As COVID-related shutdowns and restrictions crippled small businesses across the globe, TechnoServe responded quickly to support thousands of struggling retailers. Adapting its training to digital formats and shifting its business guidance to reflect the new crisis mode, TechnoServe highlighted its recommendations in two public reports, which detail proven ways to support small businesses in crisis conditions. 

As a result of these interventions, TechnoServe helped many small businesses avoid the worst impact of the COVID crisis. Our work throughout the year made progress toward strengthening a sector that accounts for more than 80% of employment across Latin America, Africa, and South Asia.

Decorative horizontal graphic for the May story in TechnoServe’s Year in Review 2020. A circle- shaped photo on the lefthand side features a smiling man in a yellow shirt tending to one of his livestock on the smallholder farm where he works. The text on the right side reads “May 2020” (teal header) above the heading title in grey font, Major Program Enabled 70,000 African Youth to Nearly Double Income.”

MAY: Major Program Enabled 70,000 African Youth to Nearly Double Income

In Africa, up to 12 million young people enter the workforce every year without finding nearly enough jobs or opportunities to accommodate them. The problem of unemployment is particularly acute in rural areas that are home to more than 70% of the youth population. 

The Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program, which officially closed this year after eight years, used a combination of training tools, including a unique “personal effectiveness” module, to help participants in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania create their own economic opportunities.

Over eight years, the program achieved the following results:

  • Trained 68,839 young people; 51% of them women
  • Youth participating in the program increased their income by an average of 84%
  • Participants’ average assets increased by 101% and savings by 89%

Image for the “July” achievement featured in TechnoServe’s Year in Review 2020 blog. A circular picture on the left side, a woman wearing a PPE mask for COVID-19 protection, a hair net, and a purple shirt is working at a cashew processing facility. The right half of the graphic reads “July 2020: TechnoServe Surveys Reveal Threats, Opportunities for COVID-Challenged Food Systems.”

JULY: TechnoServe Surveys Reveal Threats, Opportunities for COVID-Challenged Food Systems

Over the summer, the COVID-19 crisis continued to disrupt the production, distribution, and sale of food, as it threatened both urban and rural livelihoods and exacerbated food insecurity worldwide. 

In July, TechnoServe published three guides that drew upon our programs’ experience in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and past crises, as well as surveys and interviews with the entrepreneurs and farmers who sustain the food system. 

 Each of these guides revealed the main challenges facing these market actors:

  1. Smallholder Farmers and COVID-19: From Response to Recovery and Resilience 
  2. Food Processing in a Pandemic: Challenges and Responses for Africa’s Food Processors Facing COVID-19
  3. COVID-19 and Entrepreneurs in the Developing World: Supporting Business Survival and Recovery 

A graphic decoration for the second featured story from August in TechnoServe’s Year in Review 2020 blog. On the right half, the text reads “ August 2020: New Coffee from Congolese Farmers Released.” The left side of this graphic features a circle-shaped photo of a group of women from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are involved with TechnoServe’s Kahawa ya Congo Coffee project, in partnership with Nespresso and USAID.

AUGUST: New Program Helps Thousands of Small Shops Respond to COVID-19

Kenya’s micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector is vitally important, accounting for nearly one-third of its GDP and employing more than eight million people both directly and indirectly. 

The ongoing pandemic is a global crisis that has consistently created new challenges for these small businesses in developing countries. Micro-enterprises, however, are particularly vulnerable to the impact of the COVID-19.

In August, TechnoServe announced the launch of the Micro-Enterprises Strengthened for Pandemic Adaptation and Resilience in Kenya (mSPARK) program, a one-year partnership with the Mastercard Foundation to help 28,000 entrepreneurs respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A graphic decoration for the December section of TechnoServe’s Year in Review 2020 blog. On the right half of this graphic, text in teal and grey font reads “ December 2020: .Forum Shines Spotlight on Challenges in African Micro-Retail Sector.” The left half displays two proud entrepreneurs from the micro-retail sector in Africa.

AUGUST: New Coffee from Congolese Farmers Released 

In August, Nespresso also launched its Kahawa ya Congo coffee, an exciting new offering in the Reviving Origins range, sourced from smallholder farmers in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Leveraging work in the coffee sector through the Strengthening Value Chains (SVC) program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), SVC partner TechnoServe worked with Nespresso to restore coffee-growing regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Since 2019, TechnoServe and Nespresso have helped smallholder coffee farmers improve their incomes by registering with their washing stations and cooperatives as suppliers of certified organic coffee. 

OCTOBER: New Support for Food Processors in Malawi

As the manufacturers of products such as fortified flours, edible oils, milk and yogurt, and therapeutic foods, food processors are vital for ensuring food security and adequate nutrition. They also provide markets for local farmers and employment for workers.  

In Malawi, however, the processing sector suffers due to a range of risk factors. Consider some of the challenges listed below:

  • Limited technical and business capacity 
  • Inadequate access to financing
  • Poor linkages to both farmers and base-of-the-pyramid consumers 

In October, TechnoServe, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) announced the expansion of the Alliance for Inclusive and Nutritious Food Processing (AINFP) program to Malawi. The three-year, $1 million program in the country will provide tailored technical advice, sector-wide training, and improved access to finance for Malawian food processing firms.

NOVEMBER: Cashew and Tech Initiatives Launch in West Africa

West Africa is the world’s leader in cashew production, accounting for more than 45% of the raw cashew nuts harvested around the globe each year. The cashew processing sector, however, still holds significant untapped potential for national economies, farmers, and workers. 

In November, TechnoServe announced two grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support the development of the cashew sector in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria. The expansion of the BeninCajù project in Benin and the launch of the new Prosper Cashew program will help drive change across this critical value chain. Together, these promising new initiatives will benefit thousands of farmers and others employed in the sector. 

The BeninCajù program will scale efforts to use remote-sensing technology like drones, coupled with machine learning, to identify where cashew orchards are located and which farmers need agronomy training. 

In addition, BeninCajù will also deliver training content remotely through mobile phones. The virtual iteration of this program combines the power of massive open online courses (MOOCs) with a newly developed custom mobile app. Course participants will learn new ways to determine the quality of cashew nuts more easily, among other innovations.  Launching this initiative exemplifies how our nonprofit uses technology to scale solutions and is a point of pride as we reflect on TechnoServe’s year in review.

A decorative graphic for the December section of TechnoServe’s Year in Review 2020 blog. On the right half of this graphic, text in teal and grey font reads “ December 2020: .Forum Shines Spotlight on Challenges in African Micro-Retail Sector.” The left half displays two proud entrepreneurs from the micro-retail sector in Africa.

DECEMBER: Forum Shines Spotlight on Challenges in African Micro-Retail Sector

In December, TechnoServe hosted its fourth Micro-Retail Stakeholder Forum. The virtual event featured leaders from across the private sector and civil society in Africa. Panelists highlighted the importance of new technology and cooperation to help shopkeepers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and recover from the crisis.

The forum emerged from the Smart Duka initiative, which seeks to support micro-retailers in improving business growth and their shops’ financial returns. Since 2015, TechnoServe has worked with over 10,000 shops in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Cote d’Ivoire. Our initiatives help small business owners improve their business management skills and provide links to finance and markets.

A graphic section header for a notable story from December for TechnoServe’s Year in Review 2020 blog. On the right half of this graphic, text in teal and grey font reads “ December 2020: Nigeria CEO Forum Highlights Major Strides in Food Fortification.” The left hand side of this graphic includes a circular image of several participants of TechnoServe’s food fortification programs.

DECEMBER: Nigeria CEO Forum Highlights Major Strides in Food Fortification

December also marked the annual Nigeria Food Processing and Leadership Forum, organized by TechnoServe and chaired by Bill Gates and Nigerian business leader Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Government and business leaders from across the country gathered at the virtual forum to discuss how to continue impressive recent progress in food fortification. 

A significant degree of this progress comes as a result of the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods program, run by TechnoServe with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Food fortification is one of the best ways to fight malnutrition at scale and is particularly important in countries like Nigeria, which has the largest number of malnourished people in Africa. 

At this year’s forum, TechnoServe reported a 68% increase in the supply of fortified wheat flour and a 200% increase in the supply of fortified sugar, allowing over 90% of the Nigerian population to access these foods for the first time. 

Reflecting on TechnoServe’s 2020 Year in Review

How You Can Help Build Brighter Futures in 2021

Together, we can take the findings of TechnoServe’s year in review further next year. Your support in the fight to end global poverty helps TechnoServe continue to provide life-changing training for hardworking farmers and entrepreneurs in the developing world.