Request For Concept Notes (RFCN) For Grant Project To Upgrade Maize & Cowpea Value Chains in Boucle Du Mouhoun and Centre Ouest Regions of Burkina Faso

About AGRA and its strategic partnership:

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is a not-for-profit organization working with African governments, donors, NGOs, private sector and African farmers to catalyze and sustain an agricultural transformation in Africa through innovation-driven productivity increases and access to markets and finance that improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers. AGRA focuses on putting farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economy by transforming agriculture from a solitary struggle to survive into farming as a business that thrives.

In 2017 AGRA engaged in a Partnership for Inclusive Agriculture Transformation in Africa (PIATA), with USAID, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation in resources mobilization for the implementation of its five-year new strategy in 11 African countries.

In September 2017, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) entered into a strategic partnership with the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to combat hunger, create jobs and raise incomes in rural areas of Africa.

The partnership is based on a shared interest in: country, regional and continental agricultural priorities; investments and policies that advance agricultural incomes of the smallholders; food security; sustainable land use; and inclusive and sustainable agricultural transformation in Africa that fosters employment and economic opportunities.

Under the BMZ Special Initiative ‘One World – No Hunger’, Germany will contribute €10 million to co-finance AGRA’s five-year strategy (2017-2021) and to increase productivity, combat hunger, create jobs and raise incomes of 1.2 million smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso and Ghana, both focal countries of the German Development Cooperation in the agricultural sector and two of AGRA’s 11 priority countries.

To reach this target group of smallholder farmers, AGRA will commit resources 1) to strengthening of agricultural systems around input and output markets 2) scale models of technologies with high potentials, 3) invest in priority interventions that leverage and complement funding committed by other donors and the government.

The Partnership between AGRA and BMZ will also support AGRA to enhance its ability to address and manage any environmental and social risks and potential impacts which may result from the preparation and implementation of AGRA funded projects in a structured, transparent and sustainable manner.

Background/Problem Statement

Since 2007, AGRA worked extensively in Burkina Faso and made investments in different regions of the country. Based on lessons learnt, AGRA designed a business and operational plans aligned with the country priorities. Five regions (Boucle du Mouhoun, Cascades, Centre Est, Centre Ouest and Haut-Bassins) and four crops (Cowpea, Maize, Rice and Sorghum) are selected.

Maize is one of the selected crop for the Burkina Faso plan. It is produced in many regions of Burkina Faso, and 76% of all farm households are involved in rain-fed maize production. Farm size varies from small (1-3.5 ha), medium (6-12 ha) to large (18-63 ha). Large farms represent less than 1% of the total. Cultivated area nearly doubled between 2007 and 2013 from 470,000 ha to 845,000 ha in 2013 (including 3,600 irrigated ha). AGRA has invested substantial sums of money and expertise in variety development and there are now excellent maize varieties available in the market (e.g. Komsaya and Bondofa).

Maize is in high demand, for both domestic and export markets. It is also an important food security crop, providing 16% of total food intake. Commercialization is driven by urban demand, industrial uses (beer and animal feed), and processed flour, as well as for a variety of rolled food products.

Currently, 50% of the country’s maize production is sold through commercial markets, but less than 10% is used for commercial processing. Domestic consumption is expected to grow due to the demand for easy-to-prepare maize-based foods associated with urbanization and increases in female employment. An important part of the growth in the maize value chain will come from the development of the poultry feed sector. Due to increase in disposable income, the demand for meat and eggs is expected to more than double by 2030. During this period, meat consumption is expected to grow from 38,000 MT to 96,500 MT. Economists also anticipate a growing demand for eggs from the current levels of 59,500 MT to 106,000 MT. As a result, supply of packaged feed blends will need to grow to 500,000 MT, a 200% increase over current levels. AGRA intends to close 89% of the current yield gap (The yield gap for maize is about 50%, current yield is 2-3 t/ha) and, in the process, raise productivity to 5 t/ha. By filling the yield gap, reducing post-harvest losses and improving aggregation, maize should gradually become the country’s second most important food for urban consumers and regional export.

In AGRA’s targeted regions, cowpea is produced mainly in Centre-Est, Centre-Ouest, Boucle du Mouhoun and Hauts-Bassins. Cowpea, which contributes significantly to soil fertility, is produced throughintercropped or crop rotation farming practices. Cowpea is also known as a woman’s crop as it is grown by large numbers of women. It is currently transitioning from being a food security crop to a cash commodity, thus providing income for many of the 2.6M farmers who grow it across the country. Historically, AGRA has supported cowpea variety development by training plant breeders and supporting their research. This effort led to the release and commercialization of improved varieties such as Komkale, Nafi and Niezwe.

Cowpea consumption grew at an annual rate of 4.1% during the period 2000-2010. There is a ready market for cowpea as up to 65% of all Burkinabe cowpea is sold and approximately half is exported, principally to Nigeria. Many production issues can be resolved using existing varieties that are resistant to Striga.

Despite strong market demand, these value chains still remain constrained by inadequate inputs systems limiting farmers’ ability to grow required volumes of quality produce.  The lack of sufficient supplies of improved varieties is aggravated by low demand driven by a lack of farmer awareness about their value and the scarcity of certified seed. In some cases, the production is not suitable for the industry and household consumption because of high levels of aflatoxin contamination. This will not have only an impact on the health of farmers and consumers, but it limits the access of farmers to some lucrative markets that are no tolerant to aflatoxins contamination. In addition, there is the limited supply of fertilizer blends suitable to local soil conditions. The key drivers associated with this challenge are lack of knowledge among farmers about the blends most suitable for their farm and crops and low aggregation of demand (even in cases where farmers are aware of the correct blends).

It is against this backdrop that AGRA, through its funding from BMZ, invites interested groups of service providers that specialize in agricultural system and value chain development to submit a concept note of at most 5 pages showing how they will upgrade these value chains.

Project Goal and objectives:

To catalyze and sustain an Inclusive agricultural Transformation in Burkina Faso to increase incomes and improve food security for 200,000 smallholder farmers


  1. To increase productivity of quality and safe maize and cowpea for 200,000 smallholder farmers in Boucle du Mouhoun and Centre Ouest
  2. To strengthen and expend access to output markets for 200,000 maize and cowpea smallholder farmers
  3. To increase capacities of smallholder farmers and agricultural systems to better prepare and adapt to shocks and stresses
  4. To strengthen coordination among stakeholders and linkages with the Government and other partners investment in the target regions.

Expected Results

  1. Increased adoption of agriculture productivity enhancing technologies
  2. Reduced post-harvest losses
  3. Increased access to markets and finance
  4. Strengthened enabling policy environment

Project Beneficiaries:

The proposed intervention will impact the following actors across the entire Maize and cowpea value chains:

  • Smallholder farmers
  • Off-takers/ Processors
  • Aggregators
  • Mechanization Service Providers
  • Agro-Input dealers
  • Seed companies
  • Financial Institutions(FIs)
  • Government agencies at national and local level

Intervention Strategy

The overarching strategy is a market-led agricultural transformation that will facilitate value chain enhancement through off-takers and their aggregators. In the case of the maize and cowpea value chains in Boucle du Mouhoun and Centre Ouest, the proposed drivers are Aggregators and Processors who are expected to drive up consistent demand which will impact production. Fixing of broken areas in the agri-input (seed, Fertilizer) supply system and promotion of good agronomic practices will lead to increased productivity to meet market demand. In addition, promotion of Aflasafe and post-harvest technologies will result in reduction of losses and supply of product that meet the market quality standard.

The Strategy will adopt an integrated approach in the delivery of services through a Project Implementation Unit (PIU) which will consist of a multi-disciplinary team of implementing partners with different areas of expertise required to address systemic failures in the maize and cowpea value chains. The PIU will have a lead and a Task manager to strategically manage the consortium. In addition, AGRA staff (PO/APO and M&E) will closely work with the lead and other members of the consortium and follow-up all activities to ensure the quality and effectiveness of the implementation. The initiative will ensure that the value chains are inclusive of women and youth and that development and growth in productivity supports both food and industrial utilization of maize and cowpea and is environmental friendly.

The strategy will be underpinned by key elements:

  • System analysis to identify areas of investment and market demand of products
  • Estimation of input (seed and fertilizer) need for the production that will meet the demand.
  • Building the business and technical capacity of aggregators to uplift their operations and management standards to increase the quality and volume of output and efficiency of the supply chain.
  • Providing quality and safe maize and cowpea to processors
  • Strengthening access to markets and finance for SMEs (processors, agro-dealers, Seed companies, Farmers)
  • Enhancing technical and organizational capacity of smallholder farmers to improve productivity and quality of cowpea and maize taking into account all technologies including Aflasafe.
  • Facilitation of a reliable and efficient linkage for better chain integration and access to input support, services and finance.

The different Roles of the Implementing partners/Consortium Members shall include but not limited to:

  1. Farmer Mobilization activities
  2. Training and capacity building in productivity, aflatoxin management technologies such as Aflasafe,, postharvest management, Extension and farmer organization
  3. Research, Private local seed company and agro input companies based in Boucle du Mouhoun and Centre Ouest Region to provide input to farmers
  4. BDS  to provide Mechanization services
  5. BDS to off takers to mobilize produce and also communicate produce specifications and volumes required to producer groups and farmers and also develop an effective and efficient produce aggregation system.

Request for Concept Notes

This Request for Concept Note (RFCN) is comprised of two steps. In the first stage, AGRA Burkina Faso is requesting only Concept Paper from the prospective Consortium describing the overall activity that the applicant proposes to implement, in accordance with the goal and objectives of the project. Each prospective Consortium shall submit only one Concept Note. If a Consortium submits more than one application, only the first one received will be considered for review. AGRA will evaluate the Concept Notes following the criteria outlined in this brief. Applicants whose concept papers obtained highest scores in the evaluation will be invited to submit full and detailed proposals for funding consideration. Issuance of this Request for Concept Notes does not constitute an award or commitment on the part of AGRA nor does it commit to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of Concept Papers.

Selection Criteria

The selection process will favour a consortium with a stronger team which provides a clear cut strategy on how to realize the goal and objectives of the project in the most effective, efficient and sustainable way. The emphasis will also be the business model clearly defined.

Eligibility Criteria

The applicant (lead and members of the consortium) submitting the Concept Paper should meet the following criteria:

  • The lead of the consortium should be a legally registered non-governmental organization or Private Business under the laws of Burkina Faso (Must have registration certificates)
  • The lead and members should have demonstrated :
    • experience in implementing Agricultural Value chain projects in Burkina Faso, especially staple crops
    • experience in working with German projects and/or using proven tools developed under German implemented Agricultural Value chain projects.
    • capacity to manage grant funds;
    • Possess audited financial statement (preferred)
    • Shown strong synergy with other German projects in the area of intervention

Concept Paper Format

Refer to AGRA concept note format here –

Funding Period:

The funding period of this grant project is 3 (three) years. Applicants shall submit Concept Paper on the project for the 3 (three) year period.

Modalities of submission: Interested organizations should submit their concept notes written in English titled ‘Connecting actors for strengthened Maize-Cow pea value chains to improve productivity and incomes for smallholder farmers” to on or before Monday, 28th May 2018 by 5pm GMT. We encourage partnerships between organizations specialized in developing and delivering various structured value-chain Services to smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso, there should however be ONE LEAD ORGANIZATION. For any enquiry pertaining to this concept note, kindly put it into writing and submit to Concept Notes received after RFCN Expiration Date (above) will not be considered.

AGRA will review submitted concept notes within 10 days and only request successful organizations to submit full proposals for grant funding. The concept notes will not be returned to the senders. Eligible grant funding is for cost sharing of technical advisory and training costs related to the development and delivery of the proposed solution.

This work is financed by the Special Initiative “One World – No Hunger” of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development