Common Interest Group Support for AGP2

Within the context of the Second Agricultural Growth Project (AGP2), a Common Interest Group (CIG) is an informal group of 10 – 20 members from the same village who voluntarily agree to cooperate on a profit-oriented agricultural activity. The activity can focus on value chain activities including the production of crops or livestock, post-harvest handling, and storage, processing and marketing. Active natural resource conservation or sustainable use of these natural resources qualifies as well. AGP promotes and supports CIGs comprising women and youth. CDSF’s capacity development support aims to maximize AGP’s valuable support to establish and maintain CIGs which supplement farming for rural women and youth with alternative livelihoods opportunities. CDSF assessments identified specific challenges for CIG operation and sustainability including, lack of clear accountability for CIG development among institutions and implementing agencies supported by AGP, lack of technical capacity among experts who are supposed to provide support for CIGs, and lack of capacity within CIGs to run sustainable agribusiness.

Accordingly, CDSF is providing strategic support to AGP implementing agencies at the Federal and Regional level which are structurally responsible for CIG support. CDSF has been supporting the Federal and Regional implementing agencies and AGP Coordination Unit staff through design and delivery of Business Development Skills training-of-trainers. The Business Development Skills training was subsequently cascaded to the woreda and Kebele level in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) and Tigray regions. Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Woreda Cooperative Agency experts then promote and support the development of CIG business skills to local groups of women and youth. From the training process and participants’ reflection, CDSF learned the importance of developing and distributing specific business support materials for CIGs which help them identify and track business goals and objectives, document group decisions, plan essential CIG activities and cash flow, and run a viable business.

CDSF is developing a CIG Business Book which will be translated into local language(s) to help individual CIGs to document implementation of their business plans. The “CIG Business Book” will serve multiple purposes including to provide a tool for record-keeping and an easy-reference book for CIGs to help plan their informal agribusinesses. In the past, much support to CIGs has been focused on the production end of their businesses, while very limited inputs have supported business thinking, planning, and implementation skills. The book will also include a “blank” structured CIG record-keeping section to support systematic tracking of business activities and sections to follow and track short-term and medium-term goals, key business-cycle activities, roles and responsibilities within the CIG, document minutes from CIG meetings, and record cash flow in and out of the budget.

Moreover, to enhance capacity development support skills of regional Cooperative Agency experts and Regional AGP Coordination Unit staff, CDSF provides job-embedded support including coaching and mentoring.