Clinton Development Initiative

At the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in 2005, President Clinton made a commitment to improve economic growth in Africa. From this commitment, President Clinton began the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI), to help support smallholder farmers and families in Africa to meet their own food needs and improve their livelihoods. Working at the invitation of the governments of Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, CDI has grown from a network of 200 farmers in 2008 into an organization that has trained over 160,000 farmers, transforming subsistence agriculture into a catalyst for social and economic change. When families are empowered to secure their own food and support themselves financially, communities become more resilient – economies grow, jobs are created, and together, we build a strong foundation for the future.

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More About the Clinton Development Initiative

Pillars of Economic Empowerment

CDI has built its strategy for economic empowerment in farming communities 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

Lack of financial inclusion such as access to credit 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 tools such as  mobile banking. Many farmers are un-banked, 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 local banks, village savings and loans associations (VSLAs), 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.

Food and Nutritional Security

Ensuring that every individual can achieve their own food and nutritional security is a priority of the Clinton Development Initiative. In Malawi alone, nearly two million individuals rely on food  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 quality 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 needed to achieve food and nutritional security. CDI promotes staple crop rotations and works to help farmers to become increasingly productive despite  resource constraints. CDI focuses on increasing crop  yields for smallholder farmers through facilitating connections to markets for improved and certified seeds and inputs and teaching innovative agronomic practices.

In Malawi, CDI farmers have seen an average of 150 percent improvement in their yields. These improvements help them to not only produce enough food for their families, but also to produce a  surplus which 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 impaired growth or 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.

Technology Transfer

CDI looks to leverage technology to improve its programs and services. Increasing access to and utilization of technology 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 Geographic Information Systems (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, now its own company, enables field officers to collect detailed information about growing and harvest activities, administer custom surveys, and facilitate market transactions. Today, Farmforce is used across all CDI programs in Malawi, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

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 women is common sense – they provide at least 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in sub-Saharan Africa. CDI is committed to providing opportunities for women 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  targets 45 percent female membership, and encourages the formation of all-female farmer clubs. . 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.

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 has a strong track record of generating steady returns for farmers and running cost-effective programs. In Tanzania, CDI farmers increased maize yields by 243% over a two-year period while in Rwanda, every $1 spent on operations has generated $3.80 in additional income for smallholder farmers. CDI’s impact reaches beyond the individual farmer to the broader community. Improving food security, empowering women entrepreneurs, and putting more money in farmers’ pockets has been shown to have wide-ranging benefits including improved health and higher school enrollment for children.