Programme profile

CASA: Commercial Agriculture for Smallholders and Agribusiness

Ethiopia Malawi Nepal Rwanda Asia: South Africa: East, South & Central Agriculture

Programme Index Listing

Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal, Rwanda
Main implementer
NIRAS International (Component A&C) / TechnoServe (Component B)
Other implementers
Swisscontact (Component A) (and formerly CABI, Component C)
2019 - 2025
Total budget
USD $48.9 million
Annual budget
USD $5 million
External links
CASA website

Project description / objective

CASA aims to drive global investment into inclusive climate-resilient agri-food systems that increase smallholder incomes. It makes the case to impact and return-oriented investors for increased investment in agribusinesses that work with smallholder supply chains. The programme achieves this goal by:

  • Demonstrating the commercial viability and investment-readiness of small and medium-sized (SME) agribusinesses with significant smallholder supply chains
  • Helping investors to increase the impact of their investments through the provision of inclusive technical assistance
  • Strengthening the socio-legal empowerment of smallholders within value chains
  • Tackling the information and evidence gaps holding back investment

Market system focus

Ethiopia – soybean

Soybean’s high oil content makes it the leading oil crop in Ethiopia and is prioritised by government for the edible oil industry where it has great potential against palm oil imports. The oil cake residue is a nutritious feed supplement (70-75 per cent) for livestock, poultry, fisheries, and swine farms. Amhara, Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions account for 90 per cent of the soybean and Ethiopia produced an estimated 180,000 metric tons in 2022/23 from smallholders and commercial farmers. Soybean is important for increased food security and income, but also contributes to environmental sustainability by intercropping with cereals.

CASA Ethiopia’s work is focused on introducing direct contract farming models between smallholder farmer cooperatives and oil processors, with embedded services in seed and inoculant on credit, Good Agricultural Practices training (including climate adaptation elements), and agreed price mechanisms.

Malawi & Rwanda - aquaculture

The fisheries and aquaculture sector in Malawi and Rwanda is important in contributing to food and nutritional security, livelihoods of the rural population and economic growth of the country. It contributes 4 per cent to GDP in Malawi and less than 1 per cent in Rwanda. Aquaculture is one of the few value chains that is less vulnerable to the increasing direct exposure to climate risks and weather shocks such as drought and floods in Malawi and Rwanda. In addition, the local production of fish is still below domestic demand.

In 2023, in the face of globally rising feed costs, the work in this value chain has focused on access to finance and alternative feeds such as the black soldier fly.

Malawi & Rwanda - poultry

Poultry has the potential to transform economic livelihoods of smallholder producers in Malawi, especially for women and youth, and contribute to better household nutrition. Inclusion of smallholders downstream of the poultry value chain will generally contribute to the transformation of the agricultural sector through diversification and commercialisation. Poultry makes a substantial contribution to food security and nutrition. It provides energy, protein and essential micro-nutrients to humans. It has short production cycles and the ability to convert a wide range of agri-food by-products and wastes into meat and eggs. It's the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector, especially in developing countries such as Malawi and Rwanda.

The global poultry sector is expected to grow as demand for meat and eggs is driven by growing populations, rising incomes and urbanisation. With broiler production facing increasing feed costs, the value chain support has pivoted in 2023 into dual purpose and indigenous poultry and is also exploring alternative feeds.

Nepal - dairy

The dairy sector offers promising returns to smallholder dairy farmers by supporting them to maintain regular cash flow from milk sales. This provides other benefits for crop-livestock integrated farming practices. Keeping dairy animals offers smallholders the farmyard manure for increased vegetable production at smallholder household level. It also promotes a diverse farm-level ecosystem, resilient to climate changes.

Dairy farming in Nepal is considered one of the major economic activities for farming households. Milk is an extremely valuable raw material that can be used to make a wide range of high-value products. In recent years there has been a push to commercialise dairy farming.

Nepal & Rwanda - vegetables

Vegetables are gaining prominence as valuable crops in Nepal and Rwanda, involving around 500,000 households in Nepal (311,000 in Rwanda). The vegetable sub-sector contributes 9.7 per cent to Nepal's GDP (15 per cent in Rwanda). In Nepal, only 18 per cent of vegetable farmers engage in commercial cultivation, with just 5 per cent deriving their primary income from vegetables. Conversely, in Rwanda, 80 per cent of vegetable production is sold locally, 17 per cent consumed, and 4.4 per cent traded informally with neighbours. Both countries exhibit growth potential due to unmet domestic demand and import substitution. Vegetable farming, crucial for food security, provides micro-nutrients, vitamins and income. 

Women often manage vegetable gardens alongside, increasingly, cereals and livestock. There is scope to promote women’s economic empowerment by focusing on production and improving aggregation and marketing.

Programme interventions

Market systems development - Component A

Implemented jointly by Niras and Swisscontact, Component A demonstrates the commercial and development potential of smallholder sourcing models in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal and Rwanda, leading to mobilisation of investments for partner agri-SMEs (which can include commercially-minded producer groups), by supporting them to prepare for and secure investment while connecting smallholders to commercial markets.

Technical assistance facility (TAF) - Component B

Implemented by Technoserve across multiple countries, Component B helps investors provide technical assistance to larger agribusinesses to deepen the impact on smallholders in their supply or distribution chains. It also improves the operations and profitability of the agribusiness sourcing and distribution models.
TAF is evolving into CASA+ which will include both pre- and post-investment support; supporting DFIs and DFI-backed funds to identify high-growth inclusive and green agriculture investment opportunities, co-create viable and scalable inclusive growth and green solutions, and increase investment in and adoption of inclusive and green business models in low-income and lower-middle income countries.

Research, learning and communications - Component C

Implemented by Niras and formerly subcontracted to CABI, Component C consolidates existing knowledge and specially commissioned research to support upscaling and replication by the investor community.

It is structured around:

  • identifying constraints / opportunities and addressing evidence gaps through research
  • shaping the debate on smallholder agriculture to influence actions of investors, governments and donors
  • creating networking opportunities through events and stakeholder engagement

CASA’s crosscutting priorities:

  • climate change and environment
  • Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI)
  • food and nutrition security

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)

Market system changes

By the end of Year 5 (April 2024) Component A will have:

  • Delivered 60 technical assistance projects which aim to improve smallholder access to markets and climate resilience
  • Supported 334,440 smallholder producers (of which 220,000 through new or improved off-taker or aggregation arrangements and 47,200 through Covid-19 or global food crisis responses)
  • Supported 30 agri-food SMEs with technical assistance to improve their investment readiness
  • Leveraged approximately USD $3.5m in commercial investment into supported agri-food SMEs

Technical Assistance to larger SMEs through CASA TAF (Component B) is expected to leverage USD $5m in additional private sector investment in the same timeframe.

Policy support is expected to have influenced 13 policy and investment decisions by governments/investors through dialogues/events managed by the programme.

Impact on poverty

  • Change in per cent of target households below the poverty line (as measured by the Poverty Probability Index)
  • Mean food insecurity experience & dietary diversity scores of CASA target households
  • Per cent of target smallholder farmers with improved climate  resiliency score

[updated December 2023]