Market-Oriented Training Service on Standards Application (MOTSSA)

Slideshow or image 
STDF_PG_155_Photo4
Start Date 
01/06/2010
End Date 
31/12/2012

Market-Oriented Training Service on Standards Application (MOTSSA)

The main objective of the project was to support the development of certification bodies for the validation of competency of persons, establish SPS training units, disseminate implementation of SPS and quality through a process of training farmer groups and establish a certification model for trainers in specific areas for selected export crops.

Background 

In recent years Nicaragua has undergone a dynamic agricultural transformation. Two forces that played a part in this are the increase of export sales to CAFTA and EU markets, and the growth of supermarkets on the domestic market, such as Walmart. As part of this transformation, farmers now need to meet more stringent specifications on quality and food safety, as part of the internationally agreed SPS measures. As a result, more attention is now being paid by farmers and traders alike on implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), as a way to prevent contamination risks and increase food safety of the end product all the way from the field to the end consumer. Private standards are also driving the producers to improve their compliance in order to remain competitive. Important market opportunities which have been seized by small, medium and large Nicaraguan farmer groups are at risk of being lost in the face of lack of awareness and implementation of measures, therefore further work was being needed prior to the project to build at national level a sound, high quality, market-oriented SPS training service.

The project aimed to strengthen knowledge and implementation on GAP, both at government institutions, academic and at farmer cooperative level. This would be obtained through both practical demonstrations to farmers through the use of in-field show-case plots, as well as through training courses developed by the project in conjunction with academia, and certification of trainers using a standardised diploma course and a persons' competence certification system, also to be developed by the project.

Results 

Overall assessment

Foremost, the project has ensured that small producers are now implementing GAP for the benefit of their own health, the safety of the product they produce and benefiting the environment. The supply chain partners these producers work with also benefit though greater confidence in the product sourced, and the country’s SPS profile was enhanced, allowing continued access to demanding export markets, with the possibility of new ones. The project has also formed an excellent base to extend GAP awareness and implementation to other products and species and a step towards the overall institutional and private sector strengthening of the national SPS measures management system.

Baseline situation at start of project appraised

The baseline study conducted at the beginning of the project included 13 meetings with 385 producers, assisted by the MAGFOR inspectors. The study was able to identify relevant problems about production and marketing in the areas of peanuts, beans, okra and roots and tubers. Additionally the exercise served to evaluate the geographical and structural spread of actors working in the area as well as a general description of each of the organizations with which MOTSSA worked. Selection of the organizations to be assisted with funds for setting up structures on 35 "showcase plots" was carried out based on set criteria including impact, alignment with the strategy of the respective cooperatives with the project, available resources and annual programme. Terms of Reference were drawn up, which guided the cooperatives in the choice of the selected sites.

Effective showcase demonstration plots set up achieved strong impact

Contracts between the cooperatives and the IICA were signed, and the cooperatives themselves built the structures, in many cases providing additional funds – the minimum included an agrochemical store, a concrete pesticide mixing area, a toilet with hand wash and shower, dustbins, signs and PPE, as well as sealing off of the water wells where necessary. Contracts were signed and funds handed over, 11 different provinces were covered. Supervision of construction work was triangulated between MAGFOR officials, the cooperative technician and MOTSSA staff. At the end official handover ceremonies were conducted on each of the showcase plots. Farms were officially registered with the MAGFOR at the end of the project, with the option of going for full GAP certification. 35 demonstration "showcase plots" were established, placed in 24 organizations, including 21 producer organizations in different parts of the country and 3 universities related to education in agricultural production, with the aim that they serve as a learning tool in the process of implementation of GAP.

Trainers successfully supporting implementation of good agricultural practices on farms

University diploma curricula was developed with the cooperation of the participating institutions. The course title was formally designated by the UNA as "The Diploma in Quality, Safety and Traceability of Agricultural Products". The Diploma course addressed the issues of quality, safety and traceability. The result was the training of 35 national experts in the field, and the building of competence at the University for the implementation of the course on these specific issues.

Farmers successfully trained and implementing good agricultural practices

Nine sets of technical farmer training sessions were carried out covering 6,347 trainees, over 277 separate events, following a protocol designed for the purpose of transmitting GAP knowledge to farmers. The women to men ratio of participation was 3 to 1 (30% women). The participation of the cooperative technicians in the trainings was key to lend greater support to the project’s scarce resources. Separately, 39 different trainings took place at participating universities, and as a result 1,043 students were also trained at the participating universities. 5 different GAP "field days" were organised to bring together students and farmers, visiting exemplary organizations and thereby enriching knowledge uptake through discussions on GAP implementation issues.

Two institutions made ready for certification of person competencies

The establishment of two certification bodies of persons or competencies required the development of quality management systems necessary for performance as established by the international standard ISO 17024 for this type of activity. 65 professionals were trained on ISO 17024 (Certification of Persons), including inspectors of the MAG, personnel of the INTA, IICA and universities such as the UNA and UNAN-León. As part of the development of the two competence certification bodies a process of exchange or internship with officials from the ONA / MIFIC, DGPSA / MAG, UNA and IICA was carried out, including a study trip to Argentina, in cooperation with the Argentine Accreditation Organisation, as a learning exercise on the implementation of the 17024 standard. Unfortunately the persons trained were then moved to another area within DGPSA, which has since greatly hampered progress.

Farmers and government extensionists now have manuals and materials for implementation of GAPs in beans, peanuts, root crops and okra

Manuals for implementation of GAP in 4 different crops (beans, peanuts, root crops and okra) were developed, as well as a manual for implementation of GMP, SOPs and HACCP in processing plants. Another important manual developed was for guiding the general implementation of GAP on farm, with extensive reference material provided in a complementary CD. In addition, a DVD was compiled directed to institutions carrying out extension work, training and capacity building on GAPs. It contained a training protocol with a collection of manuals, guides and reference publications. However this DVD was not finalised as it was still subject to further revision before final publication.

The Public Sector has undergone an Evaluation of Performance, Vision and Institutional Strategy

An evaluation of the Performance, Vision and Institutional Strategy was performed as part of evaluating and strengthening the public sector. The results allowed planning and redirection of plant health in the medium term. Actions were identified relevant to the improvement of services offered to producers on plant health monitoring and safe production, these being the two main pillars in the facilitation of trade in foodstuffs. Due to the sensitivity of the information obtained, the results were not published.

Three universities continue to teach based on material developed during the course

Aside from the 5 professors trained during the MOTSSA diploma, some 700 students have since received instruction on GAP and SPS where before they had none – this is a legacy of the project which helps build a more robust food production system nationwide. Five technical exchange tours were carried out, in order to strengthen knowledge and demonstrate to participants other experiences of producer groups implementing GAP on their farms, with 60 producers and 133 students benefiting from this activity. Extensive contacts were maintained throughout the project with the private and academic sectors, instrumental for an adequate performance and sustainable results, as well as with other stakeholders involved, including different government agencies competent in these matters.

Recommendations 

Continuity of support is needed and is worthwhile

The project results need to be given continuity through organisation and funding of follow up activities. These could be to continue to support the IPSA in training of its staff, spread the "model field" exercise to new geographic and agribusiness areas, publication of more crop-specific GAP manuals, continuous training of qualified staff, and additional train-the-trainer capacity building to foster even more understanding of the importance of GAP and SPS measures, and dissemination activities to enhance its visibility. IICA has shown strong interest in carrying out this follow up project, through the development of a follow-up project.

A follow-up project to address the full development of the ONA as an accreditation body for Certification Bodies of Persons should be prioritised. This should be coordinated with MIFIC and other donors such as the EU, who are working already on the development of SQAM aspects of the Quality Infrastructure.

There are many unmet needs from farmers in other areas of Nicaragua, who could not be reached by this project, but who would greatly benefit from this very same approach. The MAG should be assisted in their search for funds for a follow up project which also involves beef and milk producers. IICA, should approach STDF, for advice on fund sourcing, alongside other donors present in the country.

Project implementation

Strong buy-in and hands-on involvement from government bodies meant producers paid more attention and became involved, as this gave greater credibility and support to reach the desired objectives. A perceived win-win outcome for farmers, technicians and universities greatly leveraged the amount of resources dedicated to the project by participating institutions, on top of the funds provided by STDF.

Thorough initial planning of the activities results in relatively higher fulfillment of targeted activities. This was essential given the country-wide geographic scope and the involvement of farmer groups and universities in diverse locations. This also meant that the project was able to accommodate unexpected changes due to delays in institutional agreements for example, re-planning the way forward along the way.

A strong, balanced project supervision team was recognized by stakeholders as one of the strong points of the project. An enthusiastic, convincing and well connected project leader facilitated onboarding of stakeholders, involving them in the hands on process of rolling out the project activities, and obtaining greater goodwill and support through various in-kind contributions from state institutions for example. This helped also to leverage the effects of the project in the field.

End beneficiary involvement from the beginning via the baseline analysis, and direct feedback from the numerous meetings and training activities throughout the implementation of the project facilitated greater impact.

Flexibility in the implementation of the project meant that it was successful in its adaptation such as when one crop (Okra) was no longer seen as priority, and the focus was transferred to other crops.

PDF PDF
Reference Number 
STDF/PG/155
Status 
Completed
Project Value (US$) 
723,089
STDF Contribution (US$)  
519,439
Beneficiaries 
Nicaragua
Implementing Entities 
Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)
Partners 
General Directorate of Plant and Animal Health (DGPSA), Ministry of Agriculture (MAGFOR)
National Accreditation Office (ONA), Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade (MIFIC)
National Agrarian University (UNA), Managua