Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement Program (ADVANCE)

Case Studies
Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition
Publication Dates:
September, 2013
Content Formats:

This is one of 50 Harvesting Nutrition project case studies. Harvesting Nutrition was a contest held in 2012 and 2013 that showcased active projects working to improve the impact of agriculture and/or food security on nutrition outcomes. Co-sponsors were SecureNutrition, Save the Children UK, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Learn More.

Project Description:

​ADVANCE is a value chain project working in maize, rice and soybean aiming to sustainably reduce poverty and hunger. The USAID-funded project contributes to two Feed the Future strategic objectives: improved nutritional status, especially of women and children, and inclusive agriculture sector growth.   ADVANCE works through a nucleus farmer (NF) model to provide services (improved seed, fertiliser, mechanisation, post-harvest services and credit) to smallholder farmers and to link smallholders to larger buyers and processors. The project selects NFs by assessing willingness to invest and provide the above services, and then builds their capacity through training, technical advice, and equipment grants. On the smallholders’ end, the project partners with various institutions to train beneficiaries to adopt good agricultural practices that will increase yields. 

Soybean was selected as one of the target crops because of its potential impact on household nutrition and its market potential. Soybean is typically grown as an input into feed for animals and oil for human consumption. Soybean oil is considered more healthful than palm or peanut oil, and is a source of omega-3 fatty acid, critical for maternal and child health. When eaten as a bean, soybean is a complete protein nearly equivalent to the protein quality of meat, milk and eggs.  Interventions include using demonstration to promote the use of improved seeds, inoculants, fertilizers and planting techniques; small equipment grants to decrease labor; and facilitating market linkages. ADVANCE has assisted 4,856 soybean-producing farmers, 44 percent of whom are female, to increase yields by more than 30 percent.

Impact of project: ​

Building on technical assistance related to increasing production, ADVANCE organized two-day trainings in 35 communities in northern Ghana with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s Women in Agriculture Development department and the Nutrition Unit of the Ministry of Health to educate female beneficiaries about soybean recipes as well as the health benefits of regular consumption. Additionally, ADVANCE educated women on the use of locally produced soybean oil for household cooking instead of relying on imported vegetable oils, which are relatively expensive. Some successes include: 

  • Members of the 131-member Stepwise Women’s Group (SWG) were producing soybean for household consumption before they joined ADVANCE, but their efforts resulted in low yields. They started work with ADVANCE in 2011 with training on soybean utilization. Further technical training at the demonstration plot and access to inputs through the NF has enabled most of the SWG members to increase production.  With food scarce during the dry season, their new knowledge helps them feed their families throughout the year with more diverse nutritious diets. One woman from the group remarked “Our children complain if they don’t get it. Kids are heavier; women believe they are becoming more attractive.”  
  • Memunatu Alhassan has been cultivating soybeans and groundnuts on her two and half acre farm for 10 years.  ADVANCE support has helped her increase yields by 50 percent, and doubled the per bag price. From the proceeds, she has been able to pay her daughter’s school fees and to re-build a room that collapsed about three years ago.

Why this project is a Good Practice example: ​

Female beneficiaries have used the new skills and knowledge to prepare local recipes with soybean. The regular staples in the north are cereals including millet, sorghum and rice, as well as small quantities of legumes. The inclusion of soybean as an additional source of protein improves the nutritional status of beneficiary households. Moreover, soybean is less expensive to produce than maize and rice, their other cash crops. A SWG member said “Before we used mainly rice, and are happy to have this new additional supplement.”

While ADVANCE does not monitor beneficiary health directly, qualitative results are quite positive.  Further, soybean is a cash crop in northern Ghana, which remains the poorest part of the country with one growing season and food security challenges during the lean period. Cash earned by women usually goes into household food provision when food stocks from their own production run out. Supporting women to grow and market soybean helps them buy food during the lean period. ADVANCE links smallholders to markets through the NF, which impacts the nutritional status of vulnerable households through increased income. In view of the reliable market, Memunatu plans to invest all her energies and resources to the cultivation of soybeans. “I promise to put all my energies and funds into farming, it is a good business. I thank USAID-ADVANCE for its wonderful support.”

Better storage mechanisms for maintaining quality of grain is another contributor. Numeracy training has given the women confidence to trade at local markets without getting cheated. 

Impact Evaluation:


Lessons Learned: ​

  • Integrating nutrition into an economic growth project has positive results. Lessons learned can be applied to scale-up within the project and benefit projects working in similar areas.  
  • If nutrition is not the project’s primary focus, it helps to partner with other agencies for relevant expertise, sustainability and scalability.
  • Inclusion of at least one “women’s crop” with nutritional benefits is critical.
  • Soybean is a good choice for smallholders, especially women, because they have small plots and few resources but can both make money and improve household nutrition.
  • Soybean production is labor intensive and some beneficiaries intend to switch to other crops. Through the grant program the project provided dibblers for efficient planting but could have provided post-harvest tools as well. 
  • A dual strategy of integrating women into the overall project to achieve higher uptake of new technologies and techniques and targeting specific interventions at them such as nutrition and numeracy training has proven successful.
  • Beyond demonstration, it is important to identify appropriate tools to expand outreach to women (dramas, radio listenership clubs) to increase women’s interest and spread awareness and knowledge around production and household consumption.
  • Organizing cooking competitions sponsored by private sector buyers and processors to exhibit locally manufactured soybean products increased women’s confidence that there is a market for soybean.
  • While some communities have been slow to adopt both new production practices and utilisation, those that adopted saw positive results. We believe trainings that targeted women leaders only were less successful than those that called for broad participation.



Funders: USAID

Primary Contact: Tom Carr, Chief of Party

Country: Ghana

Project Dates: 2009 to 2014

Interventions: Incorporate explicit nutrition objectives and indicators, Target the vulnerable and improve equity, Empower women, Facilitate production diversification, Improve processing, storage and preservation, Expand markets and market access for vulnerable groups, Incorporate nutrition promotion and education,

Target Population: Rural farmers, Smallholder farmers, Women farmers,

Project Stage: Ongoing activities

Geographic Coverage: Regional