Programme profile

STARS: Strengthening African Rural Smallholders

Burkina Faso Ethiopia Rwanda Senegal Africa: East, South & Central Africa: West & Northern Agriculture Financial services

Programme Index Listing

Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal
Main implementer
ICCO Cooperation
Other implementers
ICCO Terrafina
Mastercard Foundation
2017 - 2021
Total budget
USD $17 million
Annual budget
USD $3.4 million
Maurice Koppes, Program Lead: / Christien van den Brink, Strategic Communication Advisor:
External links
STARS news
STARS video
4 lessons - onion value chain
STARS blogs
STARS in Burkina-Faso
STARS in Ethiopia
STARS in Rwanda
STARS in Senegal

Project description / objective

Improving access to finance and end-markets for 210,000 smallholder farmers in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal and Burkina Faso. The project plans to have an overall impact on the lives of more than one million people.

Market systems focus

Shea nut (Burkina Faso)

International demand for shea nuts, driven by the cosmetic sector, is growing. Although collecting is labour-intensive, it provides women with crucial income during the lean season. Collectors, however, struggle to meet quantity and quality standards set by international companies.

Sesame (Burkina Faso)

Market demand for sesame continues to grow. However, farmers have poor access to quality seeds and input credit and have limited knowledge on good cultivation practices. As a result productivity in Burkina is very low.

Malt Barley (Ethiopia)

The malt beverage sector in Ethiopia is expanding. Breweries rely on imports as domestic production only meets 35 per cent of demand. Local barley varieties tend to be low-yielding as they are susceptible to pests and disease. Farmers need better access to improved seeds, inputs, fertilisers and knowledge of malt barley production best practices to take advantage of the opportunity.

Potato (Ethiopia)

Potatoes play an important role in food security in Ethiopia, reducing household food shortages during the lean season. However, lack of a structured market causes high price volatility; and absence of basic, high quality seeds and agricultural best practices means productivity is low.

Rice (Rwanda)

Despite potentially very favourable rice-growing conditions in Rwanda, farmers face high labour costs and inadequate water during the dry season. Price regulation makes it hard to realise the required quality and thus compete with cheaper imported rice.

Maize (Rwanda)

Many maize farmers in Rwanda store their maize produce for months after harvest in order to satisfy later demand. However, poor post-harvest management causes aflatoxin fungus contamination by due to improper drying practices.

Cowpeas (Senegal)

Cowpea production is climate-resilient, improves soil fertility and helps to increase the yields of cereal crops when grown in rotation. Despite these advantages, farmers (mostly women) lack access to quality inputs, best agricultural practices and finance to invest in their farms.

Onion (Senegal)

Onion is the most consumed vegetable but annual production does not cover domestic demand. The value chain is hampered by the lack of good agricultural practices resulting in low productivity, poor onion quality and poor storage facilities with high post-harvest losses.

Programme interventions

STARS seeks to change the way that these markets work, so that smallholders can be included in the benefits of economic growth and development. The STARS country teams do this by strengthening both the financial and private sector in a way that creates large-scale and lasting benefits for the poor.

Access to Finance

Credit product design
21 tailor-made credit products were developed, tested and rolled out within 20 MFIs in four countries. These products have been used by more than 338,000 actors (of which 184,000 are female) in the eight selected value chains, as well as others.

MFI management of agri-finance products
MFIs have been equipped to design and manage agri-finance products and their risks using tools such as the Agriculture Credit Assessment Tool (A-CAT) and by setting up risk management committees within their institutions. (Example in Burkina Faso: Managing financial risks key in unlocking farmer investments)

Value-chain orientation
MFI loan officers have been trained to increase their knowledge on agricultural value chains. In Ethiopia for example, STARS partnered with six MFIs to develop more knowledge on how the barley value chain works, and how to best adapt loans to the needs of farmers. (Blog: Malt barley farmers access inputs through the farm service center)

Attracting investment
STARS supported all 20 MFIs to attract more funding through business plan development, international brokering and business to business sessions.

To date, over USD $60 million was disbursed to almost 338,000 agri-clients in four countries. The average loan size was USD $178 per farmer.

Value Chain Development

Business models for service providers
STARS developed and tested new business models for fee-based services to farmers within the cooperatives working in the eight value chains. In Rwanda for example, 1,250 farmers received technical training and spraying services in exchange for a small fee. (Blog: How to scale fee-based services within producer organizations in Rwanda)

Improving input suppliers’ offer
STARS worked with input providers to adapt their supply packages to farmers' needs and embed advice in their product delivery. In Senegal for example, STARS linked input suppliers with onion producers through Farmer Field Schools. In this was suppliers boosted their sales and farmers doubled their yields as a result of the high-quality inputs and agricultural best practices. (Blog: Boosting the onion value chain in Senegal)

Capacity of producer organisations
STARS supported all 65 cooperatives to professionalise their services by providing them with business skills and strategic management training such as bookkeeping and budgeting and planning. STARS also supported them to develop business models to diversify their income. In Burkina Faso, for example, STARS supported an all-women shea cooperative to develop a business plan for a soap making facility. (Blog: Shea producers in Burkina Faso develop new business plans)

Farmer training
STARS provided agricultural best practice training on the selected crops in the eight value chains to over 62,000 farmers in the four countries.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)

To date, over USD $20 million has been disbursed to almost 120,000 farmers in four countries, benefitting 720,000 household members. The average loan size was USD $165 per farmer.

Burkina Faso

Access to finance:

  • Improved access to finance and markets for over 181,000 smallholder farmers working in the shea and sesame value chain.

Value chain development:

  • In total, STARS provided agricultural best practice training on the selected crops to over 26,000 farmers in Burkina Faso.


Access to finance:

  • Improved access to finance and markets for over 57,000 smallholder farmers working in the potato and malt barley value chain. 

Value chain development:

  • STARS supported six producer organisations working in the potato and malt barley value chains to rehabilitate their warehouses. Thanks to the combination of high-quality inputs, agricultural training and post harvest storage management, the producer organisations were able to sell 2,375 tonnes of malt barley to the Asela Malt Factory in 2019, a cooperative-owned factory that produces beer.
  • As a direct result from linking potato farmers to markets, a total of 106 male and female farmers were able to deliver 204 MT of potatoes to the Senselet factory in 2019. In 2020 STARS invested in the WAGINOS laboratory advancement, supporting them to produce 40,000 potato plantlets in a different propagation cycles that follow critical steps, which helps farmers get a better quality variety of seed that increases productivity. In the first round, 10,000 plantlets were produced and distributed to private seed farmers. (Read the blog: Improving The Potato Seed Production Chain For Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia)


Access to finance:

  • Improved access to finance and markets for over 124,000 smallholder farmers working in the rice and maize value chain.
  • Through STARS facilitation, five MFIs received support to secure a capital injection to finance agriculture. The main investor was Rabobank Foundation, which financed three MFIs in 2019 for USD 1.8 million.
  • STARS supported MFIs to set up a total of 115 savings groups within three producer organisations, totalling 2,490 farmers. In total, 113 saving groups have mobilised over USD $59,000 of savings. Farmers have set specific savings goals for buying farming tools, inputs, and small-sized livestock to produce organic fertiliser.

Value chain development (maize and rice):

  • Through linkages to large input suppliers, producer organisations now buy and sell inputs to their members on credit. Payment is made once farmers have harvested and sold their produce.
  • In 2019, 5,000 smallholders gained access to post-harvest equipment (threshers and winnowers) through a business model developed with five producer organisations. 


Access to finance:

Improved access to finance and markets for over 127,000 smallholder farmers working in the cowpea and onion value chain.

Value chain development:

  • in the cowpea value chain STARS supported five producer orgainisations involved in seed multiplication. As a result, three of them are able to produce certified seeds as an embedded service for their members.
  • STARS linked producer organisations of cowpea farmers to the Senegalese Bakers Federation, the national union grouping over 100 bakeries. As a result, over 5,000 female farmers have direct access to markets.
  • Thanks to market information platform Mlouma, more than 34,000 farmers are now better informed on agricultural best practices in the onion value chain.

[updated July 2021]