Localization in Practice: Strengthening Locally Led Technical Assistance

group of women at IGNITE project workshop

Across the globe, localization is becoming the new standard in development, shifting the driver’s seat to local actors by strengthening their systems to address socioeconomic challenges responsive to their community needs. This approach is the driving force behind Tanager’s IGNITE project—an investment mechanism designed to enhance household nutrition and women’s empowerment by bolstering African institutions’ capacity to integrate gender and nutrition into their business practices and agricultural interventions.

Over the past six years, Tanager has collaborated with five local service providers (LSPs) as IGNITE implementing partners. These partners have been instrumental in cascading lessons learned and tools developed by IGNITE to client institutions in their respective countries. The LSPs include the Association of Decentralized Financial Systems of  Burkina Faso  (APFSD) and PanAfricare in Burkina Faso; Center for Gender Economics in Africa (CGE) in Nigeria, Fair and Sustainable (F&S) in Ethiopia; and Nafaka Kilimo in Tanzania.

LSPs presented an opportunity to scale IGNITE’s gender and nutrition technical assistance in a way that achieves long-term sustainability of program outcomes with clients while also building the capacity of local institutions as providers of long-term support

As Tanager wraps up the IGNITE project this July, we reflect on lasting impacts. Tanager’s efforts in enhancing the local technical capacity through these LSPs have made a significant difference for both, the LSPs, and their client institutions. Today, LSPs serve as key drivers of change in their respective countries, possessing the gender and nutrition expertise needed to transform Africa’s agrifood system. This expertise has opened doors for new funding opportunities and access to a broader roster of clients. IGNITE clients also reported positive developments from working with LSPs. These include increased internal leadership buy-in, greater allocation of dedicated human resources and budgets, and heightened staff awareness and capacity in gender mainstreaming and nutrition integration. Additionally, these institutions have reported positive changes in integrating gender and nutrition into their programmatic activities.

The journey of the IGNITE project underscores the power of localization in development. By empowering local actors and institutions, we create sustainable, impactful change that resonates with the unique needs of communities.

Following are five examples of LSP impact:

Combining Gender and Nutrition in Burkina Faso

group of women holding leaflets

In Burkina Faso, agriculture is a major economic activity employing a significant portion of Burkinabe women. It has also been effective in enhancing nutrition outcomes and alleviating poverty. However, women continue to face restrictive social norms that lead to social and economic inequalities.

Tanager, in collaboration with PanAfricare, has been providing technical assistance to several clients to enhance their staff’s understanding of gender integration and nutrition-sensitive programming. With support from IGNITE, PanAfricare identifies key intervention areas aligned with its organizational strategies.

Before becoming an LSP, PanAfricare had a strong track record in implementing nutrition in agriculture. Today, it delivers a dual service, adding gender capacity-strengthening activities to institutions working and investing in Burkina Faso’s agriculture sector. This includes the Burkinabe Association for Community Action, the Union of Cooperative Societies for the Marketing of Agricultural Products, and a cluster of microfinance institutions.

Over time, as PanAfricare staff developed confidence and expertise in providing these services, the organization assumed greater leadership and responsibility over IGNITE technical assistance delivery. This transition has empowered PanAfricare to independently lead efforts in integrating gender and nutrition, making a lasting impact on the communities they serve.

Expanding Women’s Access to Financial Services

two women VSLA members doing bookkeeping

 

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) play a crucial role in women’s empowerment. By providing access to finance, MFIs enable women to engage in income-generating activities that improve their household well-being and influence the consumption of healthy diets.

Also in Burkina Faso, IGNITE first engaged APFSD, the Burkinabé microfinance association, as a client, alongside four of its members: Caisse Baitoul Maal; Promotion du Développement Industriel, Artisanat et Agricole, Association Solidaire (PRODIA); Groupe d’Accompagnement à l’Investissement et à l’Epargne SARL (GRAINE); and Caisse Mutuelle du Burkina Faso (CMBF). Initially, the technical assistance aimed to help these entities mainstream gender into their services, but it achieved much more.

APFSD became one of the first microfinance associations in Africa to mainstream gender into its financial services and operations. This strategic advantage allowed APFSD to offer a unique combination of services in other countries across the continent. Because of its early and successful adoption of IGNITE tools and methodologies, APFSD transitioned from an IGNITE client to an IGNITE LSP, which allowed its 180+ members to now benefit from IGNITE’s services. This impressive expansion increased the reach of IGNITE in Burkina Faso and beyond while ensuring that vital lessons on gender integration are disseminated to more institutions and benefit thousands of women over time.

By empowering APFSD to integrate gender into its financial services, IGNITE has significantly enhanced the capacity of local institutions, creating a ripple effect that promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment across the region  (read more here).

Adding Nutrition Perspectives to Ethiopia’s Gender Equality Efforts

group of men participating in a gender training

 

Ethiopia’s national nutrition program recognizes that diverse diets, along with women’s access to land and control over household resources, are pivotal in achieving food and national security. Tanager worked with Fair and Sustainable (F&S), a social enterprise consultancy firm, as an LSP and co-delivered services to IGNITE clients, including Digital Green and the Sasakawa Africa Association.

F&S already had experience in gender, implementing gender mainstreaming and gender inclusion activities for clients. However, since its engagement with IGNITE, it has expanded its business scope, and today it proudly integrates nutrition into the non-IGNITE projects it supports.

“Before we started work with IGNITE, we had some projects that we were really involved [in food security], but we weren’t doing the big picture when it comes to nutrition,” says Lensa Girma, agroecology, nutrition, and food systems consultant at F&S. “The more we knew about the concepts and tools, the more we started to engage on nutrition assignments. So, it really changed us and given us a picture where we can also incorporate nutrition in the projects that we are working for.”

“Counting on our experience with Tanager [through IGNITE], we have applied for proposals that are at the regional level. We profile ourselves that we are a Tanager LSP, and Tanager is working in this country so in a way we have that exposure. We can also use the LSPs in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Burkina as our partners in a way. That has given us confidence that we have that bigger network, and we qualify to take the bigger assignment[s],” says Hibiete Tesfaye, F&S’s interim general manager and gender expert.

By incorporating nutrition perspectives into their projects, F&S has enhanced its capabilities and broadened its impact, demonstrating how targeted support and technical assistance can elevate local institutions to new heights.

Inclusive Transformation of Tanzania’s Dairy and Poultry Sectors

Two people vaccinating chickens

Photo courtesy: Silverlands

Men and women participate at different levels in the value chains due to existing economic and socio-cultural norms—from input supply, production, and processing to transport and marketing. Therefore, gender-sensitive considerations need to be mainstreamed across the value chain for women to benefit equally with men.

In 2021, IGNITE expanded its efforts to Tanzania, partnering with Nafaka Kilimo. This collaboration combined Nafaka Kilimo’s existing expertise in gender and nutrition with IGNITE tools and approaches, delivering both immediate and long-term support to IGNITE clients in Tanzania.

One of these clients was the Tanzania Inclusive Processor-Producer Partnerships in Dairy (TI3P) project, a consortium led by the Tanzania Agriculture Development Bank (TADB) in partnership with the Tanzania Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Land O’Lakes Venture37, and Heifer International. To date, the TI3P project has reached nearly 45,000 farmers, has improved the dairy processing capacity by 15 percent, and has increased the overall volume of milk production by 3 percent through fostering public–private partnerships, promoting access to reliable markets, boosting women’s participation, and expanding the consumption of diversified diets at the household level.

The other client was Silverlands, a well-known and growing poultry producer in Tanzania, which is the only company in the country that produces three different day-old-chick varieties for the commercial market, operating one of the largest feed production plants in Eastern Africa, and has established a poultry training center to disseminate knowledge to poultry growers.

IGNITE and Nafaka Kilimo co-delivered gender mainstreaming capacity building and M&E services for gender and nutrition to these clients. By modeling and providing technical assistance with IGNITE, Nafaka Kilimo not only deepened its expertise and developed its own gender policy, which is now under implementation, but became instrumental in integrating transformational gender and nutrition considerations in two crucial value chains.

This partnership is leading to more inclusive dairy and poultry sectors in Tanzania, demonstrating the importance of integrating gender and nutrition considerations across all stages of value chains to ensure equitable benefits and sustainable development.

Closing the Gender Gap in Nigeria

Group of women in Nigeria with a plow

The Centre for Gender Economics in Africa (CGE) addresses the structural and contextual factors perpetuating gender inequality by promoting women’s entrepreneurship and their role as economic agents to reduce poverty. As an IGNITE LSP, CGE offered various services to IGNITE clients, including the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and AMO Farm. In collaboration with IGNITE, CGE developed a gender-responsive budgeting toolkit that enables stakeholders to ensure budget policies consider societal gender issues.

Through this partnership, CGE acquired comprehensive knowledge of basic nutrition concepts, agricultural food systems, nutrition-sensitive agriculture, and the role of food systems in nutrition. This enhanced understanding has enabled CGE to effectively integrate gender and nutrition perspectives into its initiatives, furthering its mission to close the gender gap in Nigeria.

By equipping CGE with the tools and knowledge to address both gender and nutrition issues combined, IGNITE has strengthened the capacity of influential local institutions to drive meaningful change. This partnership exemplifies how targeted support can empower local actors to develop innovative solutions that promote gender equality and improve nutrition outcomes.

Lessons Learned in Advancing Localization of Gender and Nutrition Services

Becoming an effective local service provider requires institutional strengthening and a long-term outlook. Organizations not only need to absorb the technical knowledge, and to master the methodologies and tools but need to establish the business value of continuous strategic investments. Below are some of the key lessons learned while localizing the offer of gender and nutrition services in African institutions:

  1. Strengthening Local Institutions: Enhancing the capabilities of local institutions creates a proven pathway to advance crosscutting development agendas such as gender and nutrition integration.
  2. Knowledge Transfer and Networking: Direct capacity building, knowledge transfer, and networking enhance LSP capabilities, positioning them to deliver technical assistance on gender and nutrition integration to other institutions.
  3. Transitioning Organizations: When transitioning an organization into an LSP role, it is crucial to secure appropriate resourcing of the new responsibilities (such as gender and nutrition) via dedicated staff and budgets towards the selected transformative approaches.
  4. Identifying Linkages: Assisting institutions in recognizing the connections between seemingly disparate issues—such as how their ongoing work on gender is impacted by adding nutrition perspectives—helps them make a more compelling business case for clients and achieve better results.
  5. Continuous Business Assessment: Ongoing capacity building for LSPs through modeling strengthens their ability to deliver technical assistance. However, LSPs do not control the demand for services. They need to be alert and adaptive as the demand for different types of services and delivery methods evolves, even within the same topics such as gender and nutrition. Responsive LSPs have a greater chance of retaining and expanding their clientele.

These lessons underscore the importance of adaptability and strategic investments in empowering local institutions to drive sustainable development and transformative change. By fostering strong, responsive local service providers, we can ensure that gender and nutrition integration becomes an embedded practice, benefiting communities across Africa.