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Catholic Relief Services, CRS




CRS is recognized by donors and peer agencies as a leading organization in food security and agriculture. CRS has six senior-level global or regional technical advisors, supported by five mid-level staff, plus high-level national staff in country programs. CRS guides its work in agriculture through 4 pillars of intervention:

1.       Agriculture for emergency response:

CRS focuses on helping rural communities prepare for, cope with and recover from environmental and human-made disasters. CRS has done extensive work in recovery situations with seed systems, and voucher programs to provide access to food and inputs using existing market channels.

2.       Agriculture for health and nutrition:  

Agricultural programming that addresses nutritional needs – including looking at impacts on women’s time and workloads – is a focus for FY11.

3.       Agriculture for the environment:

CRS has extensive experience with promoting watershed management and integrated water resource management (IWRM) approaches to help rural communities manage their water resources, and protect and increase the productivity of other natural resources. This approach serves to reduce the impact of environmental shocks, which can be expected to increase with global climate change. This work also includes an expanding focus on integrated soil fertility management and conservation agriculture in Africa.

4.       Agriculture for income: 

CRS focuses on reducing poverty through agroenterprise, working with groups of smallholder farmers to increase incomes through engagement in key value chains.

CRS collaborates globally with experts from the CGIAR Colombia-based center International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to strengthen in-house expertise in marketing and commercialization.  CRS and CIAT have jointly participated in a “Learning Alliance” focused on agroenterprise since 2002.  This work has included testing and adapting the CIAT approach to agroenterprise, building the capacity of CRS staff and partners, and other joint learning.  A major output of the Learning Alliance has been the advancement of processes for developing and strengthening farmer groups to engage equitably and sustainably with markets.  CRS supports agroenterprise programs in over 40 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.  CRS has created agroenterprise training manuals and is finalizing trainings on 5 key skill sets that farmer groups seek to help them link with markets (see http://ecom.catholicrelief.org/fiveskillsets/).

ICT4D: CRS is emerging as a leading NGO in ICT4D. Since 2009, CRS has invested in building local capacity in ICT and has identified working solutions and support systems.  For example:  GLCI utilizes an online/ offline forms system to collect data on mini-computers for a database, which is linked to viewable reports; CRS programs in Haiti are on a web-based map; CRS’ IWRM project is linking programs with GIS maps; a new platform to be rolled out in November enables farmer skills enhancement to be measured using onling/ offline forms, and field agents can support farmer groups to create business plans and measure profitability.

Partnerships:  CRS is a civil society organization whose strength lies in building the capacity of local partners and other civil society. CRS partners regularly with public sector actors, including local Ministries of Agriculture and the local NARS, as well as COMESA and ECOWAS.  Private partnerships with value chain actors (British exporter of navy bean in Ethiopia) and key ICT partners (mobile phone providers in Kenya, mobile money in Malawi).


MEAS Contacts

Rupert Best, Rupert.Best@crs.org

Joshua Poole, Joshua.Poole@crs.org


Highlights of CRS in Feed the Future countries:  CRS has significant capacity in 16 of the 20 Feed the Future countries. Highlights:

Haiti:  CRS has an ongoing Title II program in the South Department, which has focuses on watershed management for improved production; building sustainable production systems through linkages with a local NGO that provides improved seed to organized farmer groups.  A program coming online in 3 months focuses on enhancing the coffee and mango value chains for smallholder producers (coffee and mango are also two priority value chains of Feed the Future). CRS led a post-earthquake seed and livelihoods assessment and was the main implementing NGO for a country-wide high profile seed system security assessment with CIAT, FAO and MARNDR.

Rwanda:  Rwanda is one of six countries that are part of the BMGF-funded Great Lakes Cassava Initiative (GLCI), a project aiming to bring disease-tolerant cassava planting materials to over 1.15 million farm families. GLCI engages the national agricultural research centers and works with about 2,500 farmer groups.  CRS/Rwanda has also been working on a pilot savings and lending internal communities (SILC) program that leads SILC trainers to become paid PSPs (Private Service Providers). SILC in and of itself is a key component to group cohesion and to engaging women.

Malawi is engaged in a 5-year Title II program aiming to reach over 120,000 households, in partnership with eight NGO partners and government, incl. Bunda College, to increase production, incomes, and nutritional outcomes.

Ethiopia is one of CRS’ largest agriculture programs: An ongoing MYAP has linkages to the government and its poverty reduction strategy as well as its National Nutrition Program; NRM work has enabled significant production gains in one watershed by raising the water table; CRS has built the capacity of now high-performing local partners.

Liberia has just closed-out a successful Title II food security program and is beginning an ADB-funded program focused on value chain enhancement.

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