Our Work


A4SD works along the entire value chains. Its work is based on the value links concept.

ValueLinks 2.0 is a generic methodology for value chain development that is used by governments, private companies and development agencies alike. The idea is to promote the transformation of value chains towards a greener and more inclusive economy. ValueLinks also is a network of experts and a set of training courses. The methodology is well-known and used in a growing number of development programs. Over the past 10 years, more than 3000 people have been trained.

Programs have access to the principles and tools via the website www.valuelinks.org which provides information on the ValueLinks training courses and presents the new “ValueLinks 2.0 Manual on Sustainable Value Chain Development” (2017). It has two volumes, the first covering value chain analysis, strategy and implementation, the second a series of value chain solutions, from improved business models, linkages, financing and services to sustainability standards and regulatory change.


Cost-effective extension to intensify production needs to build on research-based and viable Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). To this effect, technical-economic producer references on GAP for cocoa and food products such as rice, cassava, maize, tomato, beans or snails are developed. These are short documents for extension workers and farmers. They provide illustrated key messages on good agricultural practices as well as harvest and post-harvest techniques developed by agricultural research. Significant work is needed to ensure the concise, correct and compelling documentation and illustration of good agricultural practices as well as harvest and post-harvest techniques. The technical recommendations include profitability analyses and management questions to ensure successful implementation and increase productivity and income. On the one hand this ensures well-structured and conducive extension sessions along the production cycle. On the other hand, it helps farmers to apply good agricultural practices between and after extension sessions. Each smallholder, man or woman, participating in extension sessions receives his or her producer reference. Producer references are also used to develop additional extension material such as image blocks, 3D animation and radio broadcasts. 


Farmer Business School (FBS) strengthens smallholders’ business attitudes and management skills for better and diversified incomes and nutrition. With co-funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Cocoa Foundation, the Sustainable Smallholder Agri-Business Programme (SSAB) and partners developed the first curriculum for African cocoa smallholders in 2010. In five sessions, smallholders learn about:

  • Principles of farming as business
  • Basics of human nutrition and farm management for a balanced diet
  • Investment strategies based on cost-benefit analysis of production techniques
  • Financial management, savings and credit
  • Benefits from quality produce and from membership in producer organizations
  • Investments in replanting of tree crops

FBS complements training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), financial and technical services that smallholders demand. To date, 1,300,000 smallholders graduated from FBS.

Since 2012, 22 development programmes have adopted FBS to train smallholders in 19 African countries. With the support of SSAB, the programmes adapted FBS training materials for 33 production systems other than cocoa. In total, SSAB and its partner programmes developed over 55 curricula. Together with the 480.679 cocoa farmers trained in the frame of SSAB, over 1,3 Million smallholders are now FBS trained.

Essential success factors are:

  • Focus on the business skills most needed by smallholders
  • Thorough qualification in theory and practice of trainers with good social skills
  • Combination of basic standard modules with product specific modules
  • Participatory group work approach.

The demand for support in developing and up-scaling FBS is growing. This led to the creation of the FBS Advisory Facility under SSAB end of 2016. It provides assistance to rural development programmes and organizations as well as private companies interested in adaption and implementation of the FBS approach. To learn more abot the FBS Advisory Facility, click here...

Building on the FBS approach, the SSAB project has developped the Cooperative Business School (CBS) whch aims to strengthen the Farmer-based Organizations (FBO) and their staff. Read more...


The Matching Fund is an integrated development partnership uniting private, public and civil society actors to blend financial and in-kind resources for clearly defined activities aligned with a common project focus in a value chain. This mobilizes significantly more resources and leverages synergies, resulting in a significantly higher impact. The Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) first implemented this model in 2009, the African Cashew Initiative (ACI), now Competitive Cashew Initiative (ComCashew) followed in 2012 and the Competitive Rice Initiative (CARI) in 2013.

The Matching Fund engages private partners at different levels of the value chain like buyers, input and service providers, processors, farmer based organizations and retailers. But also public sector partners like extension agencies, research institutes or policy makers as well as civil society organizations in the coordinated implementation of project activities are included, each contributing to achieving their own and common project objectives. The focus on a specific product like cashew, cotton, cocoa and rice facilitates cooperation with and support to existing professional networks to reduce bottlenecks at all stages of the value chain.

Cost Structure of a Typical Matching Fund Project

Core Partners who significantly contribute own resources, i.e. representatives of the donor community, engaged institutions and project implementing partners like GIZ and others meet regularly in a Program Board to exchange and steer strategic adjustments, comparable to a shareholder meeting. The Board is responsible for the strategic management of the funds, the development of policies and regulations and to approve project proposals of potential partners. Consensus building is the basis of decision making. A Matching Fund Committee evaluates and proposes to the board subprojects eligible for co-funding. The Project Management Unit prepares board meetings and decisions, concludes contracts with individual partners and oversees their implementation and reporting.

Matching Fund projects usually range from 65,000 Euro – 1,100,000 Euro with a partner grant share of 50% - 80% (A4SD providing the rest) and a duration between 6 and 24 months.

Until now over 130 Matching Fund projects were realized in 14 countries. These activated a total partner contribution of 69.7 Million Euro. Research institutions, government organizations, farmer unions and many other stakeholders were involved. Activities improved supply chain linkages, quality planting material and seed, access to finance, inputs and advice and promoted Good Agriculture Practices.


The “Master Training Program” (MTP) is a unique training programme of the ComCashew project. The programme aims at creating a pool of qualified experts in the cashew value chain to facilitate knowledge exchange, learning and innovation within the cashew sector in Africa. After completion of the Master Training Program, each participant is recognized as:

  • Resource-persons with knowledge in cashew production, processing, marketing, economics, and organization of the cashew sector,
  • Qualified expert in the field of training of trainers in cashew;
  • An expert in  designing and developing  training programs for specific target groups;
  • A reference person who is well connected at national and regional level within the cashew value chain;
  • An expert in the design, adaptation and updating of educational/training tools.

At the end of the training, the qualified Master Trainers provide technical trainings to other trainers (training of trainers) as well as farmers and other actors of the supply chain. They also advise and provide guidance for the growth of the cashew sector.

From 2013 - 2017 editions of MTP were held with 291 experts along the cashew value chain trained, 237 of whom are women. The MTP constitute an effective regional exchange between 19 countries. The fifth Master Training Program targets 75 participants and five resource persons working in the private and public sectors as well as in NGOs promoting the cashew value chain in West Africa.

The applicants must be mandated by their host institution. Applicants for the Master Trainer Program are experienced consultants or experts on training/advising along the cashew value chain or any other crop, staff of processing companies (start-ups as well as already installed units) and consultants working in cashew. They are employees coming from private and public institutions. Applications will go through a transparent selection process in line with fixed criteria.

The MTP covers a period of 7-8 months. The programme includes three one week class-room sessions, offering a facilitated platform for exchange. Each session focuses on a specific set of modules:

  • Session 1: Organization of the cashew market and implementing instruments for a Master Trainer
  • Session 2: Planting material development and good agricultural practices
  • Session 3: Cashew processing, sector organisation and cross-cutting issues

Between the classroom sessions, so-called intersessions or field activities of maximum length of three months are scheduled. During the intersession, participants return to their host institutions, share their knowledge with colleagues and do hands-on work in the field to apply what they have learned in the training sessions.

Find the current MTP call for application on the News page of ComCashew.


Agriculture plays a major role in most Sub-Saharan countries, with about two thirds of the population engaged in agricultural work. Nonetheless, the added value to agriculture is still insufficient, leaving opportunities for the intensification of production. Thus, supporting modern smallholder farming, as well as processing, trade and marketing have the potential to contribute to significant employment growth.

In A4SD, private partners create new jobs for both men and women in processing factories, often decentralised in rural areas. However, the largest employment effect still arises directly through the production on small-scale farms, since their intensification for marketable qualities and quantities leads to a significantly higher labour demand. The additional employment can be presented in full-time job equivalents, which is necessary due to the seasonal informal character of work. Work in production is distributed among both, family workers and paid workers.

So far, A4SD created about 1,100,000 jobs along its value chains, of which more than 80% are in the production segment of the chain and less than 20% in processing and trade.


Digital extension material supports the face-to-face extension services of partners and enables them to adapt to the fast-growing digital environment in Africa. In the making of any material, the projects of A4SD cooperate with partners, using digital extension material as well as  existing digital platforms  (i.e. WhatsApp). The published material is always gender-sensitive and farmers are presented as active change agents.

The projects have used various digital means to spread information:     

3D Videos - Based on well-proven and research-based analog training material, the projects of A4SD developed 3D animated training videos, which inform farmers about recent developments of innovative strategies. The videos have been produced using a modular principle, making it easy to adapt to different languages. Examples for such videos are the 3D-animated videos developed by SSAB on Good Agricultural Practices and Good Harvest as well as Post-Harvest Practices. Find the videos on the SSAB website.
The A4SD projects have followed the most important digital principle: designing the video in collaboration with the user. Farmers were involved in the production process in order to ensure identification with the material. By working with local production studios, the existing structures are considered as much as possible.

WhatsApp - WhatsApp is the most widely used messenger worldwide. It is used by the A4SD projects as an ICT tool to reach out to farmers and other value chain actors. Thus, SSAB and now also ABF use the messenger to spread videos and extension materials among  farmers through the project’s partner network. Furthermore, ComCashew connects all female partners along the value chain, from female farmers to Production Managers, in a WhatsApp group.

Cinema on the go - SSAB purchased 100 hand projectors, which partners’ trainers will use in the cocoa farming communities to broadcast our videos.

Diffusion via online channels – A4SD employs a variety of online channels: from YouTube channels to websites and online extension platforms to further distribute its 3D animated extension materials and other online material.

Artifical Intelligence for Agriculture:  

ComCashew has been part of the GIZ Data Lab's experiment "AI Training Data for Agriculture" and has run as its first pilot. The main question addressed was how GIZ project data might be used to train an AI-based crop information system that helps to increase smallholder farm output. Overall, the experiment has shown great potential to inform on crop performance over time and space and thus equips project managers with a complementary data-driven tool for project monitoring and planning.


The whole experiment is explained in this blog post.

More information about ICT activities on the SSAB website.


“The African farmer and her husband…” This proverb entails in essence the importance of women in the African agricultural sector: they form the backbone of African smallholder farming. Designing the four value chain projects, gender-inequalities in African smallholder farming were consciously addressed.
The projects have had considerable impact on the lives of women. So far, more than >530,000 women have been trained in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) or in Farmer Business School (FBS). In doing so, projects use gender sensitive training material. For instance, in SSAB training videos, a husband and wife tell us the story of their joint efforts on good nutritional practices. The cotton project COMPACI also specifically targets the issue of gender equality among farmers through gender-sensitive training material. These trainings are not only necessary in order to improve women’s skills as farmers, they also act as key steps to improve female farmers’ agency.

A gender success story: Bibiane Ndzana lives in a rural area in Cameroon.  After attending FBS training her life has seriously changed: “After FBS in 2012, I do my cropping calendar and my operating account for my farms regularly. I apply the Good Agricultural Practice and plan my expenditure. I save and I am qualified for loans. I diversified production including groundnut.
I increased my profit from 1,200 EUR from 4 hectares in 2013, to 5,500 EUR from 6.5 hectares in 2015. I pay my children's school fees easily now. My son will take over.”
You find more FBS success stories and videos on the SSAB website.

Beyond production, the projects have also promoted women in other value chain segments:  The rice project CARI in collaboration with Walmart has a dedicated gender component, which aims to teach the processing of rice with improved parboiling technologies. The Cashew project ComCashew has trained 237 women in its Master Training Program (MTP), who are now experts in the Cashew sector. Following the training, some of them have been promoted in their working environment into leadership positions, also becoming role models and agents of change.

Ardiata Traoré for example became Production Manager in the Burkinabé cashew factory Gebana Burkina Sarl after participating in the MTP: “This is what my colleagues said about me after attending the MTP: ‘You react in a different way and more professionally than before. Instead of being very aggressive to situation, you differently react in a more responsible way’ […] MTP has provided me with an understanding of the different stages of the cashew value chain: From establishment of a cashew farm, to farm maintenance, from determining the quality of raw cashew nuts, to the different steps of cashew processing. The knowledge gained has increased my confidence and I am professionally better equipped to overcome future challenges which I might face.”  See Arditata’s video on the ComCashew Youtube channel.

For more information on gender-related activities, see our gender fact sheet.
Information on the GIZ gender prize in our news section.


The Monitoring and Evaluation system (M&E) of all A4SD projects, is based on GIZ’s principles and standards of monitoring. M&E involves the systematic observation of results, so that the entire change process is continuously monitored. Moreover, the ability to track the objectives and their progress at any given time, accelerates the learning of the projects and possibly highlights any areas where adjustments are necessary. Besides learning and project steering, M&E enables projects to account for project development, vis-à-vis donors and other project partners.

At the start of implementation, each A4SD project built its individual M&E system and established a monitoring plan. When the umbrella programme A4SD was established in 2016, building on the individual projects, it introduced a new layer of M&E: an aggregated M&E system of the projects overall  in combination with  the introduction of aggregated indicators. These indicators are based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the requirements of the Marshall Plan for Africa by the BMZ and internal GIZ requirements for aggregated indicators.

The most important indicators established, are the ones on changes in yield, farmers’ income, employment effects, and partner contributions to the programme. Each of the programme’s projects collects these indicators through coordinated methods and tools. The most important ones are:

  • Implementing partner reports to track advancements on implemented activities, for instance: in order to know the exact number of trained farmers
  • Yield surveys in order to follow up on yieldchanges and GAP application rates
  • Economic case studies in order to have in depths insights on farm economics and to collect data on farmers’ income 
  • Expert interviews in order to get sectoral data such as national production volumes of the crops of interest

Data generated with these methods enable us to report on an aggregated and broad scale level with reliable techniques. We report to the public, the commissioning parties and any other stakeholders through this website, factsheets and reports.
These aggregated results do not only lead to broader-scale and easier communication, but also to results, which can easily be compared across the projects. This stimulates the sharing of experiences and knowledge, further increasing the reach and effectiveness. For instance, the successful FBS approach has been adopted by and adapted to other projects within GIZ, intensifying the use of successful tools and approaches within the organisation.