CDI's mission is to catalyze economic empowerment through agribusiness development. With access to high-quality inputs, agronomic knowledge and markets, more than 85,000 farmers in Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania are increasing their yields and incomes.
The Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) develops and operates agribusiness projects that empower smallholder farmers to increase their economic potential. In Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, CDI integrates commercial farms and other agribusinesses with agricultural extension and outreach to increase farmers' access to local markets and enable them to participate equitably in those markets. CDI's model puts farmers first by increasing their access to knowledge, inputs, and services to improve their crop yields and increase and diversify their incomes. Focusing on agricultural market development, sustainability and efficiency, CDI's goal is to work itself out of a job. CDI collaborates with governments, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, social investors, and farmer organizations.
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More About the Clinton Development Initiative


Pillars of Economic Empowerment

CDI has built its strategy for economic empowerment around five key pillars: financial inclusion, food and nutritional security, technology transfer, full participation of women, and climate resilience. By focusing on specific programming around each pillar, CDI strengthens farmers' economic improvements. CDI approaches economic empowerment holistically, looking at long-term financial, environmental, and social sustainability.


Financial Inclusion

Access to finance is a key constraint for smallholder farmers. Without credit, farmers are unable to purchase seed, inputs, and other tools to increase their productivity and profitability. Beyond access to credit, CDI sees a need for broader financial inclusion—from literacy to appropriate products, including mobile banking. Many farmers are unbanked, and do not benefit from the security and flexibility that access to financial services provides. Across all programs, CDI has made financial inclusion a priority—linking farmers to services and information in order to become better economic agents for themselves.

CDI is working with Visa, the World Food Program, local banks, and microfinance institutions to provide smallholder farmers with access to the financial services they need. These services include: financial literacy training, credit, insurance, savings, and mobile wallets.

In 2015, CDI joined the Better Than Cash Alliance, which works with governments, the development community, and the private sector to adopt the use of electronic payments. In helping to advance broad-based financial inclusion, the Better Than Cash Alliance supports the transition from cash to electronic payments, which encourage savings-building while giving initiatives like CDI a more cost-effective, efficient, transparent, and safer means of disbursing and collecting payments.


Food and Nutritional Security

Ensuring that every individual has the knowledge and opportunity he or she needs to achieve food and nutritional security is a priority of the Clinton Development Initiative. In Malawi alone, nearly 2 million individuals require food aid assistance to survive the lean season. Secure, diverse, and nutritious sources of food are critical not only to farmers' health, but also to their productivity. Limited access to water, markets, and improved certified seeds and inputs, as well as poor soils and outdated agronomic training, all hinder a farmer's ability to grow adequate and diversified foods.

CDI focuses on catering to smallholders' needs by empowering them with the knowledge and tools they require to achieve food and nutritional security. CDI promotes staple crop rotations and works to help farmers to become increasingly productive within their typical resource constraints. CDI targets yield improvements for smallholder farmers through facilitating connections to markets for improved and certified seeds and inputs, and teaching innovative agronomic practices.

In Malawi, CDI project participants have realized an average of 150% improvement in their yields. These improvements help them produce extra food for their families, while the surplus can be sold at market to generate extra income. In Malawi, with plans to expand to other geographies, CDI is promoting small-scale horticulture, particularly geared towards targeting micronutrient deficiencies in youth that often lead to stunting. Recognizing that food and nutritionally secure farmers are healthy, productive farmers, CDI continues to work toward improving access and empowering farmers to ensure that they have enough food to feed themselves and their families.


Full Participation of Women

The inclusion and promotion of women and youth is a priority across all Clinton Foundation initiatives and programs. For CDI, focusing on the empowerment of female farmers is common sense—women provide at least 43% of the agricultural labor force in sub-Saharan Africa. CDI is committed to providing opportunities for female farmers to not only become better farmers by participating in CDI's smallholder outreach program, but also how to become better participants in agricultural markets.

In every geography, CDI requires farmer groups to have at least 45% female membership, and encourages the formation of all-female clubs. This year, CDI has more than 55% female membership across all countries. Women hold more than 40% and 30% of the leadership roles in Malawi and Tanzania, respectively. Recognizing these achievements, CDI sees an opportunity to further increase opportunities for women farmers, in order to empower them as economic agents and leaders in their communities.

In order to capitalize on female participation and increase female empowerment, CDI plans to partner with key stakeholders with expertise in this topic area to perform gender assessments by country. The results and recommendations from these assessments will be used to execute a female empowerment and inclusion strategy for all CDI projects in 2015.


Technology Transfer

CDI looks to incorporate technology solutions to improve its programs and services. Increasing access to and utilization of technology solutions to aid economic development bridges the technology gap between developed, emerging, and developing economies. Leveraging the activity in the information communications technology for development (ICT4D) arena, CDI is identifying and implementing technologies to enhance CDI programs and create opportunity for smallholder farmers, including mobile money, information exchange platforms, and GIS applications.

In 2014, CDI implemented a mobile application, Farmforce, developed by the Syngenta Foundation, to collect agronomic data from demonstration plots and smallholder farmers. Farmforce enables field officers to collect detailed information about growing and harvest activities, administer custom surveys, and facilitate market transactions. In the 2014-15 season, CDI began using Farmforce in Malawi and Tanzania, and plans to implement the application in Rwanda by the end of 2015.


Climate Resilience

Climate change is one of the leading causes for loss of smallholder farmers' productivity. The effects of climate change, including erratic rainfall and soil erosion, lead to decreasing food and water security, soil productivity, crop yields, forest cover, and biodiversity. These environmental changes threaten the livelihoods of smallholder farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa, most of whom are dependent on subsistence rain-fed agriculture.

The best way to mitigate against the impacts of climate change is to build resilient ecosystems that can withstand environmental shocks. CDI empowers farmers to maintain and protect existing natural resources while improving and re-building degraded systems wherever possible. CDI promotes a holistic and innovative approach to climate-smart agronomic practices for smallholder farmers. Crop rotations, agroforestry, and integrated soil fertility management—including mulch, green manure, compost, organic fertilizers, and other crop residues—are at the center of these interventions and trainings. Planting the same crops each season depletes essential nutrients from the soil. Depleted soils have reduced water and nutrient retention capacity and are particularly susceptible to erosion. CDI encourages smallholders to plant trees to protect their croplands and increase water and nutrient retention.


Our Impact

CDI's commitment to put the farmer first is working. Smallholder yields and profitability are increasing due to improved agronomic practices, access to high quality seed and inputs, and market linkages. CDI's multiplication activities have increased access to improved seed varieties, which combined with enhanced agronomy practices and quality soil nutrients, have enabled soil rejuvenation and dramatically increased yields. Linkage with end-users has led to fair prices for the farmers through pre-season contracts and access to financial products, including loans and savings accounts.

This has been nothing short of life-altering to farmers and their families who have experienced a transformational leap out of rural poverty. CDI's farmer-centered approach to engaging smallholder communities while tackling gaps along the agricultural value chain has helped farmers generate more money for housing, education and access to better health care. Farmers have been empowered to put meals on their tables every night, send their young children to secondary school, invest in infrastructure improvements—such as electricity through solar panels—purchase bicycles to increase their accessibility to markets, and generally revitalize their communities. Farmers can now buy and raise livestock as sources of both protein and income, diversify their diets through the introduction of vegetables, as well as purchase medicine for sick family members to improve the overall health and wellbeing of their families.