Our Work


SSAB works along the Cocoa value chain and value chains of different food crops. Its work is based on the Value Links approach. The emphasis is on primary production, up and down stream business linkages and services.

ValueLinks 2.0 is the title of a generic methodology for value chain development that is used by government administrations, private companies and development agencies alike. The idea is to promote the transformation of value chains towards a greener and more inclusive economy. ValueLinks also is a network of experts and a set of training courses. The methodology is known and used in a growing number of development programmes. Over the past 10 years, more than 3,000 experts have been trained.

Programs have access to the principles and tools via the website www.valuelinks.org that also provides information on the ValueLinks training courses and presents the new “ValueLinks 2.0 Manual on Sustainable Value Chain Development” (2017). It has two volumes: the first covering value chain analysis, strategy and implementation, and the second a series of value chain solutions, from improved business models, linkages, financing and services to sustainability standards and regulatory change.


Farmer Business School (FBS) strengthens smallholders’ business attitudes and management skills for better and diversified incomes and nutrition. With co-funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Cocoa Foundation, the Sustainable Smallholder Agri-Business Programme (SSAB) and partners developed the first curriculum for African cocoa smallholders in 2010. In five sessions, smallholders learn about:

  • Principles of farming as business
  • Basics of human nutrition and farm management for a balanced diet
  • Investment strategies based on cost-benefit analysis of production techniques
  • Financial management, savings and credit
  • Benefits from quality produce and from membership in producer organizations
  • Investments in replanting of tree crops

FBS complements training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), financial and technical services that smallholders demand. To date, 1,400,000 smallholders graduated from FBS.

Since 2012, 30 development programmes have adopted FBS to train smallholders in 25 African countries. With the support of SSAB, the programmes adapted FBS training materials for 39 production systems other than cocoa. In total, SSAB and its partner programmes developed over 85 curricula. Together with the 480.679 cocoa farmers trained in the frame of SSAB, over 1,4 Million smallholders are now FBS trained.

Essential success factors are:

  • Focus on the business skills most needed by smallholders
  • Thorough qualification in theory and practice of trainers with good social skills
  • Combination of basic standard modules with product specific modules
  • Participatory group work approach.

The demand for support in developing and up-scaling FBS is growing. This led to the creation of the FBS Advisory Facility under SSAB end of 2016. It provides assistance to rural development programmes and organizations as well as private companies interested in adaption and implementation of the FBS approach.

For information on FBS in Côte d'Ivoire also see our video below (which is unfortunately only available in French).


The next video shows how FBS is implemented in Nigeria. Furthermore, it discusses the sustainability strategy of FBS and takes up the plan to institutionalize the approach through extension service agencies in Nigeria.


 Another example of our FBS trainings from Cameroon can be seen in the video below. In this video, FBS related topics such as the formation of cooperatives and access to finance are addressed:

Another visual example comes from Ghana. The video exemplifies the transformation from smallholders to agri-preneurs, triggered by FBS training. It also emphasizes on the success factor to have both, public and private partners, involved in the implementation of FBS. This success factor of a diversified partern structure follows the objective to empower farmers for a strong and sustainable cocoa value chain.

For more videos visit our SSAB FBS Youtube channel.


The objective of the FBS advisory facility is to institutionalize spreading of the approach of the Farmer Business School (FBS) and to further scale-up the approach beyond the cocoa regions of West- and Central-Africa for other value chains.


  • Exchange and networking among FBS practitioners and newcomers
  • Support interested institutions, companies or development programmes in African countries to adapt FBS to production systems other than cocoa
  • Support actors to carry out FBS autonomously for new production systems in line with quality standards
  • Provide a handbook for introduction and management of FBS
  • Organize qualification of new FBS Master Trainers
  • Advise on embedding FBS trainings in agricultural training programmes and other service models
  • Support the establishment of an international FBS association
  • Identify and build capacities of organizations to host and operate the FBS advisory facility after 2019

If you are interested in the services provided by the FBS Advisory Facility, please contact: fbs-facility@giz.de.



Toua Bibiane Ndzana
“After FBS in 2012, I do my cropping calendar and my operating account for my farms regularly. I apply the Good Agricultural Practice and plan my expenditure. I save and I am qualified for loans. I diversified production including groundnut.
I increased my profit from 1,200 EUR from 4 hectares in 2013, to 7,900 EUR from 8,8 hectares in 2017. I pay my children's school fees easily now. My son will take over.”


Peter Sipalo Lubinda
Zambia (2016)
“Through FBS I learnt to think like a businessman so that I make money from my farming activities. Last season, I was able to produce more than 1,000 kg per hectare of cotton compared to my initial results of 450 kg -600 kg per hectare.
In addition to cotton, I diversify my production, and now I grow maize, groundnut and vegetables to improve my family’s health and wellbeing. From the money I earned I was able to build a nice house for my family with roofing sheets. We also purchased cows, goats and chickens, which we didn‘t have before. I am a lead farmer in my community, so I help others by demonstrating the good agricultural practices.”




SSAB constantly analyses and improves the Farmer Business School (FBS) approach and results. After FBS trainings many cocoa smallholders established and ran Farmer-based Organizations (FBO). There is still potential to improve FBOs’ capacities to provide business services to their members. To this effect, market orientation, entrepreneurship, knowledge of value chains, good governance of farmer organizations, technical and economic viability of FBOs have to be strengthened. Beyond institutional development, managing teams of FBO need technical, economic and organizational skills on one side and the buy-in of members to succeed business services on the other.
SSAB compared different FBO training manuals and found that they emphasise institutional development (registrations, statutory aspects, accountability) whilst the area of commercial operations and services of FBOs are insufficiently tackled, an issue long neglected both by FBOs and development partners.

To strengthen FBOs' capacity, together with partners we have finalized the Cooperative Business School (CBS). CBS targets managers of FBO’s. In the training curriculum, following issues are tackled:

  • Business services (including procurement, marketing, internal and external financial services and trainings), related business model and business plan development
  • Understanding markets, the value chain and related logistics
  • Financial and strategic management of FBO's.

So far, SSAB has trained 613 different cooperatives in Cameroon, Côte d´Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo. In total, 3,854 managers and members of Farmer-based Organizations (FBO’s) have participated in CBS (20% women). With both managers and group members joining the training, the whole cooperative is gaining from the training and with that, thousands more farmers can benefit from improved business services.

The handbook is for managing teams of smallholder FBOs and thus written in simple language. It contains a lot of examples and practical tools to make it indeed relevant for them and members. The contents are relevant for all types of FBO in West- and Central Africa beyond cocoa and can easily be adapted to the context of other countries. The manual is accompanied by a trainers’ guide that contains short modules (max. 100 minutes long) that can be used either for subsequent trainings or also separately, according to the needs and interests of the FBOs.


We support our partners in delivering cost-effective extension to intensify production of cocoa and food. Diversification of smallholders’ livelihoods is key to lower the dependency from income from cocoa production, provide a stable and higher income throughout the year and to improve the nutrition of the family.

We use rather traditional face-to-face extension materials, such as technical-economic producer references or image blocks, as well as innovative media such as 3D-animation. To promote food production, together with our partners we have selected specific livelihoods for each partner country. These are based on profitability, availability of technology for smallholders, nutritional value and access to markets. The recommended GAP are research-based and have been cross-checked against their applicability in the rural areas.

A technical-economic producer reference is a short document for extension workers and farmers. It provides illustrated key messages on good agricultural practices as well as harvest and post-harvest techniques developed by agricultural research. Significant work is needed to ensure the concise, correct and compelling documentation and illustration of GAP as well as harvest and post-harvest techniques. The technical recommendations are completed by profitability analysis and management issues to succeed adoption and increase productivity and income. On the one hand this ensures well-structured and conducive extension sessions along the production cycle, and helps, on the other hand, farmers to apply good agricultural practices between and after extension sessions. Each smallholder, man or woman, participating in extension sessions receives his or her producer reference. Producer references are also used to develop additional extension material such as image blocks, 3D animation and radio broadcasts.
Since start of the programme, 196,279 smallholders (31% women) have received the training on GAP and good harvest and post-harvest practices for cocoa and for food products of their choice. With our partners we have developed 42 producer references for 10 food products and 3 for cocoa production (re-planting of cocoa, nursery management and mature cocoa). They are adapted to the specificities of our partner countries.


Digital extension material in the form of 3D animations support the face-to-face extension services of partners and adapt them to the fast-growing digital environment in Africa.


SSAB used well-proven and research-based analog training material to develop 3D animated training videos. The videos are produced with a modular principle, making it easy to adapt to different languages and recent developments of innovative strategies to bring the message to the farmer. We produced five 3D animation films: GAP for cocoa, cassava and maize, one on good practices for a healthy diet and one on safe pesticide use and management. All videos are available in english and french.

Please watch our videos:



WhatsApp for What’s GAP - WhatsApp is the most widely used messenger worldwide. To spread the videos and extension messages WhatsApp is one method of distribution. Our programme partners use their network and spread the news of SSAB ICT-based extension materials to farmers.

Cinema on the go - The programme purchased 100 hand projectors, which partners’ trainers will use in the cocoa farming communities to broadcast our videos.

Diffusion via online channels - SSAB identified a variety of online channels: from the GIZ YouTube channel to partner websites and online extension platforms to further distribute its 3D animated extension materials.

Our digital principles - producing its ICT training material, SSAB followed the most important digital principle: designing the video with the user. We involved farmer in the production process to ensure identification with the material. The wide reach of the videos in four West and Central African countries, as well as a modular design, that enables easy adaptation, speaks to the principle of build for scale. By working with local production studios, SSAB considered the existing ecosystem as much as possible.


The use of digital extension, educational videos and agricultural 3D animations is very limited in Africa. Pictures of farmers were caricatural and distorted. An intense capacity development for production studios was necessary. Until now, we trained 708 extension agents and trainers in 4 countries. It is planned that at least 50 of them organize 8 WhatsApp groups each with 20 farmers reaching 50,000 farmers via WhatsApp. With 100 hand-projectors up to 30,000 farmers, per year and country shall be reached.


  • We cooperate with partners to utilize the digital extension material
  • We make use of existing solutions (i.e. WhatsApp) instead of reinventing the wheel.
  • Animations are no comics! We are very careful with the picture we paint and present farmers as active change agents.


To ensure access to quality inputs, markets, financial services and information SSAB has collaborated with (A) cooperatives, (B) input dealers and (C) Financial Institutions to develop Business Service Centers based on the core business that is already offered to their clients. We support the host institutions in strengthening their core business and in adding complementary services to this. Farmers profit from a variety of business services at proximity that help them to increase their productivity and income and save to invest in future.

Depending on their core business and set-up, they offer (i) supply of agro-chemical inputs, (ii) financial services or link up and (iii) technical services. The scope of technical business services provided ranges from advice/ training on GAP/GPHP to GPS measurement, pruning and spraying of pesticides. The service providers work as individuals or as employees and by preference they are young men and women that stay in the cocoa communities. Financial services include access to current and savings accounts, risk-reduced loan packages for inputs and in some cases cashless payment of inputs.


The core piece of our monitoring system (M&E) is mData Capture System for the monitoring of FBS training data. It was piloted in all project countries and is currently being rolled out. The data on GAP training for cocoa and food products is collected in an Excel Dashboard. To monitor business services we are developing an Android-based mobile application to allow data collection of the different input dealers across the cocoa regions in Ghana.

Objective of mData Capture

  • Ensure cost-effective monitoring approach to large scale training programme
  • Providing for a virtual flow of information to reduce cost and time lag between planning, implementation and reporting
  • Enhance control and accountability of field data for reporting at a central location
  • Create knowledge platform for dissemination of information

Development of the System
Initially we developed a mobile app for basic phones without Android capabilities for planning and reporting on FBS and GAP training.Going with the trend of smartphone availability in our partner countries we further developed mData Capture into an Android-SMS hybrid technology, which makes it possible to run an Android application on SMS basis.

Data Analysis: the Web Portal
For data analysis and publication, the system has three components:

  • Public section with country and regional reports, information on approach and impacts
  • Section reserved for partners and grantors to view specific reports on FBS and GAP training performance
  • Admin Panel for data validation by project staff

The Architecture:
Trainers enter information on trainings held into the WIB application or the Android App which sends the data to a central database where it is aggregated. From this central database graphic presentation of the data are generated once SSAB staff validated the data. It can then be accessed on the SSAB website. From the other end, SSAB staff or training coordinators can enter data on training schedules which is communicated to trainers via the system.