One of the main causes of food insecurity for farmers in rural areas is limited access to agricultural inputs. In a bid to combat that, international donors and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have instigated input trade fairs and voucher schemes to provide poor, vulnerable and food insecure farmers with access to seeds, fertilisers and tools.
Similar schemes are being promoted by the EU, which has placed support for ‘resilience’ in farming and food security at the heart of its projects in sub-Saharan Africa. That includes building links with agri-businesses and promoting access to finance, such as crop insurance schemes.
Edenred, a French company, is probably best known in Europe for its lunch voucher system, but it has been running agriculture voucher schemes in sub-Saharan Africa for a number of years. In Burundi, the Ticket Agri scheme was launched in 2013, with the support of the government, to increase food security through the use of adapted fertilisers. The rationale for the scheme was that the high cost of fertilisers was limiting crop production. The vouchers were part of a national fertiliser subsidy.
The scheme is simple enough: one voucher buys a bag of fertiliser. Four and a half years on, and 3.3 million vouchers have been used by more than 300,000 farmers in Burundi, one of East Africa’s smallest and most fragile states. Encouraging the fertiliser market quickly increased production and income for small-holder farmers, generating an average 18% increase in revenue for local farmers.