Engaging Private Sector Partners to Improve Livelihoods for Conflict Victims in Pakistan

SSG Advisors is developing innovative partnerships with the private sector in Pakistan to improve livelihoods among conflict-affected people in the country’s most vulnerable areas.

Using its proprietary Sustainable Transparent Effective Partnerships (STEP) methodology SSG fosters public-private cooperation to enable conflict victims in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to resume a normal life.

SSG’s strategic partnerships with private sector actors are designed to leverage private sector resources for project activities to support job training as well as education, medical, social, and other needs of conflict victims seeking to reintegrate into the Pakistani economy and society.

Through partnership training activities tailored for Conflict Victims Support Program (CVSP) project staff and implementing partners, SSG has built the project’s capacity to launch development of key partnership opportunities reflecting the needs and priorities of the project’s target institutions and stakeholders, ranging from medical support to income generation.

Says Alberto Abadia, SSG’s Partnership Advisor for CVSP, “Pakistan has plenty of private sector actors who are aware of the challenge of working in conflict-affected areas and understand the clear economic and social benefits of working on livelihoods initiatives such as CVSP.”


CVSP partnerships contribute to the larger US government effort to reduce key Sources of Instability (SOI) by engaging and supporting at-risk populations in the FATA/KP, building trust between citizens and their government, and encouraging local populations to take an active role in their development.

To date, SSG has fostered the development and design of over 10 public-private partnerships in a broad range of industries, including pharmaceutical, telemedicine, skills training, microfinance, medical, and finance.

Most recently a group of almost 20 beneficiaries had their first day of training at the ZXMCO motorcycle factory in Lahore. The partnership is conceived as a pilot, designed for a larger endeavor in the future and contributing to the CVSP project objective of creating new jobs for people living in conflict-affected areas.

At this phase in the partnership, ZXMCO will engage these beneficiaries in a mechanical course over the course of two months. Following this, the trainees will have the opportunity to set up outlets for repair or sales of ZXMCO products.


Agricultural Productivity through Collaboration: Broadening the Market for Seed in West Africa

Despite the fact that nearly 65% of the African workforce earns their livelihood through agriculture, the continent as a whole remains a net importer of food. The total area of land under cultivation has risen in recent decades, and yet food security and nutrition metrics have failed to keep pace. West Africa in particular faces severe food insecurity, largely due to the poor yields that all-too-frequently characterize farms in the region.  One particular factor that underlies West Africa’s yield problem is a lack of access to – and lack of demand for – commercially distributed improved and certified seeds.

Recently, SSG Advisors spent a weekend with stakeholders from the USAID/West Africa, the West Africa Seed Program (WASP), the West African Council for Research and Development (CORAF) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) validating a strategy to establish an Alliance for the Seed Industry in West Africa (ASIWA), which will help seed producers, farmer groups, agro-dealers, grain buyers and agro processors work collectively in efforts to increase the quality and availability of improved seed varieties across the region. The ASIWA Strategy, developed by SSG, will be the basis for the structure and launch of the alliance over the next 12 months. While focusing on the seed sector, ASIWA’s success will contribute to USAID and ECOWAS efforts to boost staple crop yields, raise farmer incomes, enhance regional staple trade, and improve food security across West Africa.

The concept of utilizing an alliance model to improve farmer incomes is not a new one. In 2005, the USAID-funded West Africa Trade Hub co-founded the African Cashew Alliance with a consortium of public and private industry stakeholders across the region. Since then, the Cashew Alliance has evolved into a foundational industry player, demonstrating that industry alliances can be effective tactics for spurring economic growth in West Africa. A similar West African example can be found in the Global Shea Alliance.  The Cashew Alliance and Global Shea Alliance examples prove that product-based agribusiness alliances can simultaneously offer real value to private sector companies and development stakeholders alike.

The alliance model undoubtedly offers a wide array of success stories across sectors and geographies. However, the Alliance for Seed Industry in West Africa will address a fundamentally different set of challenges than those that are mitigated by other ongoing alliance efforts. Whereas past alliances have served to aggregate and focus existing demand around particular products, ASIWA will need to push past proven alliance models and craft a strategy for popularizing the use of improved seed in the region to grow demand for certified seeds and strengthen a market that is presently characterized by fragmentation, a challenging regulatory environment, and weak levels of cooperation between the public and private sectors. ASIWA’s success will be determined by the degree to which it can to actually generate new demand for improved seed varieties among West African farmers.

Critically, the ASIWA platform will provide a forum in which seed producers, certification agencies, farmers, processors, and end-product buyers can discuss solutions to specific challenges and weaknesses within the West African seed market(s). SSG Advisors is working closely with the West African Council for Agricultural Research and Development to frame and implement the alliance, which will launch a community of practice and host national and regional seed stakeholder forums during its first year. Drawing on SSG’s broad experience with development alliances and their own technical expertise in the West African seed sector, CORAF is equipping ASIWA with industry-leading tools and approaches for seed partnership development.

Integrating Social Enterprises into High-Growth Value Chains in the Philippines

Despite multiple natural disasters in 2013, the Philippines had one of the highest rates of economic growth in the world last last year and its prospects in 2014 appear brighter still. Some investors have christened the country the lead member of the PINEs – Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria and Ethiopia – a grouping of high growth frontier market economies, successors to the BRICs. With a young, increasingly educated population of 94 million and a reform-minded government, the country’s prospects appear promising.

While Philippine economic performance is impressive, major challenges remain.  The country’s growth is very uneven. Much of the country’s economic growth is focused in major cities and concentrated in a small number of sectors. Many coastal communities remain poor and heavily reliant on subsistence fishing, putting ever-greater strain on already dwindling coastal fish stocks.

Social Enterprise Photo

A key goal of the USAID/Philippines ECOFISH project is to identify and nurture opportunities for outlying and economically deprived coastal communities to participate and benefit from the country’s growth in ways that reduce pressure on the country’s coastal marine natural capital. In that regard, SSG Advisors is developing and piloting an innovative approach to mobilize investment into social enterprises based on integrating those social enterprises into high-growth value chains. Working in conjunction with communities, NGOs, companies, local government units (LGUs), and leading Philippine business schools, the new model has several components:

  • Community Asset Mapping. As a very first step, SSG worked with community leaders to conduct asset mapping – a participatory process by which the community itself identifies its natural, human, and capital assets.
  • Value Chain Analysis. The ECOFISH team is conducting an analysis of various high growth value chains that align with community assets. The team is then engaging with companies along the value chain to identify ways social enterprises can integrate into those value chains, creating jobs and livelihood opportunities. One example is in furniture manufacturing where demand for mother-of-pearl is growing rapidly – a great opportunity for a sustainable product from coastal communities.
  • Social Enterprise Business Plan Development. Having developed opportunities, community-based social enterprises will develop business plans with mentoring support from Philippine MBA students. These business plans will forecast not only the financial returns, but also the social and environmental impacts of the social enterprises.
  • Mentoring. With a business plan in place, social enterprises will have access to support from volunteer mentors who can assist them in strengthening the organizational and operational development.
  • Impact Investment Mobilization. Once the business plans are developed, SSG will work with national and international impact investors to mobilize financing for the social enterprises.

While it is still early days, this new model appears promising. By combining the principles of social entrepreneurship with a value-chain approach, SSG is catalyzing investment into marginalized communities, enabling outlying communities to be full participants in the economic resurgence in the Philippines.

African Bamboo: Investing for Small-hold Farmer Impact

Bamboo is one of Mother Nature’s super products. It grows quickly and can be used in a wide range of building and consumer products. It has the potential to be a sustainable and lucrative cash crop for small-hold farmers in Africa. The challenge is getting finished bamboo products to markets in Europe and North America.

African Bamboo, an Ethiopian agribusiness, is taking a big step towards becoming a major manufacturer of bamboo floorboards.  The company recently signed a grant award from the Agriculture Fast Track (AFT) Fund, a facility established by SSG Advisors at the African Development Bank (AfDB) and funded by USAID, Sida, and Denmark.  SSG Advisors identified African Bamboo as a high-impact investment opportunity for AFT support. With AFT funding, African Bamboo will conduct the market and feasibility studies needed to enter the US and EU markets. It is estimated that more than 2,000 small-hold farmers will benefit through increased incomes resulting from African Bamboo’s growing exports.

According to Steve Schmida, Managing Director, “SSG is thrilled to see the Agricultural Fast Track supporting African Bamboo.  When SSG researched the company and met with the management, we saw tremendous potential, both as a growth enterprise and as a means for bolstering rural incomes in Ethiopia. We look forward to seeing the company break into the lucrative EU and North American markets.”

SSG Sheds Light on Municipal PPP Opportunities to Improve Economic Outlook in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) still feels the effects of war twenty years ago, especially economically. Today unemployment is at 44 percent and youth unemployment is the highest in the world, at 63 percent.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have enormous potential to help meet these economic challenges. Through PPPs, municipalities in BiH can leverage their local resources to attract private partners able to invest in and contribute to sustainable local economic development—combining public and private financial, human, management, and technical capabilities toward shared goals.

Last month, SSG trained project and municipal staff to identify and shape sustainable, transparent and effective partnerships that will spur local economic development in BiH through the Growth-Oriented Local Development (GOLD) project. GOLD is a 5-year initiative led funded by USAID and Sida that centers on promoting investment, jobs, exports, and sales in 48 municipalities in BiH. Through the GOLD Project, SSG is helping open eyes to the promise of PPPs in BiH.

SSG has identified a number of interesting partnership opportunities around geothermal clusters, industrial park development, industry-led workforce development, strategic value chain development, recycling and waste management, and infrastructure development and management, such as irrigation systems.

Why haven’t public-private partnerships already gained momentum across BiH? Initially, many in both the public and private sector point to challenges in the legal and regulatory framework. But a closer look suggests that the paucity of partnerships is more rooted in a lack of a partnership mindset, mistrust between the public and private sectors, and a dearth of knowledge about how to identify and structure effective partnerships. Many also only consider contractual PPPs that must go through formal procurement processes and fail to recognize opportunities for development partnerships that leverage public and private resources to achieve common objectives without legally binding agreements.

Over the coming months, SSG will continue to work with the GOLD team and municipalities to promote the concept of partnerships, share tools to achieve local economic development objectives, and help structure these partnerships—resulting in new, higher paying jobs, new investment, and new sales and export revenue in communities across BiH.


SSG Launches Partnership for Local Government PPP Training in Coastal Philippine Communities

USAID and the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for training of local government unit (LGU) officials in the 8 Marine Key Biodiversity Areas (MKBAs) of the project. The MOU represents the latest development in SSG’s partnership building activities in the ECOFISH project in the Philippines.

DAP is a government owned entity whose goal is to increase effective collaboration among individuals and development stakeholder organizations in government, the private sector, civil society, academia, and international organizations. Central to these goals is capacity building training around public private partnerships.

Through its partnership with USAID through the ECOFISH project, DAP will review its existing PPP training curriculum, design a customized training module in consultation with the ECOFISH project, and facilitate PPP training for local government officials from ECOFISH sites.

DAP will tailor the trainings around sustainable fisheries management and governance for the development of customized training modules on public-private partnerships. The trainings will reach LGU officials in numerous coastal fishing communities, furthering collaboration between the project and local government and increasing the sustainability of project activities beyond the life of the project.

SSG Advisors to Promote Investment Partnerships in West Africa

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that we are part of the winning consortium on the new USAID/West Africa Trade Hub and African Partners Network. This five-year project implemented by Abt Associates is aimed catalyzing trade and investment across the West Africa region. SSG Advisors will focus on building investment-related partnerships in agriculture, textiles and ICT.

According to SSG’s Managing Director, Steve Schmida, “This is an exciting time to be working with investors in West Africa on driving market-led solutions that address development challenges in areas of food security, livelihoods and climate. SSG Advisors has developed a track record of fostering investment in Africa through innovative partnerships such as the Agricultural Fast Track Fund. We are very pleased to be working with our colleagues at Abt Associates on this project.”

ECOFISH Project Kicks Off Partnership for Sustainable Blue Swimming Crab Fishing Assessment in the Philippines

On January 30, ECOFISH staff kicked-off a partnership to conduct the first ever species-specific assessment in the Philippines for blue swimming crab (BSC) in the Danajon Reef. The assessment comes as part of a larger partnership among the Philippines Bureau for Fishery and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), industry representative Philippine Association of Crab Processors, Inc. (PACPI), US-based National Fisheries Institute (NFI), and USAID through the ECOFISH project.


The blue swimming crab is the fourth most important fishery export of the Philippines. An increase in demand has led to unsustainable fishing of the crab, significantly decreasing incomes for fisherfolk who rely on the crab for their livelihoods. Declining trends in volume and crab size can be attributed to the drastic depletion of BSC breeding stocks since the 1990s.

The partnership among BFAR, PACPI, NFI, and USAID is based on common objectives to increase the sustainability of blue swimming crab fishing, specifically through management of the BSC stock and marketing of the commodity.

Utilizing a grassroots-based tool designed to measure fishery stock, the assessment will evaluate the current state of blue swimming crab fisheries in the Danajon Reef hand-in hand with fisherfolk communities and local government units. The approach will employ simply trained, human-focused “barefoot ecologists,” to measure fishery stock at a local level using the “Spawning Potential Ratio” (SPR) method, a new cost-effective technique for generically assessing coastal fish stock and will allow the partnership to effectively address sustainability challenges facing blue swimming crab fisherfolk.

The SPR approach will address the difficulty of tracking BSC stock in a high number of coastal fishing communities – a current gap in capacity to assess and manage small-scale resources leaves government bodies and universities under resourced to assess and manage fishery stocks on a large scale.

The planned assessment comes in the wake of last October’s earthquake in Bohol, which devastated coastal communities, making fishery initiatives such as this all the more salient.

SSG’s Innovative Approach to Youth Engagement Enables Social and Economic Empowerment

One of the most vexing challenges facing the developing world remains what has commonly been termed the ‘youth bulge.’ While half of the world’s population is currently under the age of 30, 90% of these youth live in developing economies in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. This burgeoning population presents enormous challenges as countries struggle to provide their young citizens with ample employment, education opportunities, social inclusion, and effective healthcare.  Frustration at the lack of opportunity and political voice has already boiled over among youth throughout the Middle East, leading to sweeping and revolutionary change from Tunisia to Egypt as part of the Arab Spring.

Together with USAID and several key implementing partners, SSG has worked for a number of years at the leading edge of youth development in Africa and Asia. We’ve worked directly with youth organizations to empower them through solutions that provide youth with the skills, assets, and opportunities to shape their own future as healthy, educated, and productive citizens. In numerous challenging contexts, SSG has empowered youth to take control of their own destinies through a range of skills and partnership-development activities.

Yes Youth Can! capacity building


SSG Advisors served as a key implementing partner in Kenya for the Yes Youth Can Western youth empowerment project, training numerous youth organizations in private sector partnership development, which in turn led to over 100 youth-managed partnerships focusing on issues from agricultural commercialization and business training to conservation, ecotourism, and waste management. Under the USAID/Pakistan Conflict Victims Support Program (CVSP), SSG mobilized numerous partnerships across a broad range of industries, including pharmaceutical, telemedicine, manufacturing, microfinance, media, agribusiness, and finance, directly benefiting more than 1,600 at-risk youth in the northern war-torn regions. Partnerships focused on vocational training, building trust between young citizens and their government, and encouraging youth to take an active role in their own lives. SSG has also worked with the USAID/Africa Bureau to mainstream youth and community development strategies to reduce the potential for violent extremism and recruitment of youth to extremist organizations. In the Philippines, SSG developed a partnership with Microsoft to use TV White Space—unused TV broadcast channels—to establish wireless Internet connectivity in remote fishing areas. Through the partnership, local schools and municipal centers are serving as e-knowledge hubs and registration centers for local youth and their communities.

As the rapidly evolving Arab Spring has shown, countries and markets cannot develop successfully without providing youth with clear avenues for economic and social empowerment. Without focused efforts to provide youth with pathways for economic and social improvement, emerging markets and democracies will remain squarely in the shadow of the youth bulge. SSG understands the central importance of this paradigm and continually strives towards youth empowerment across its program portfolio.

Vermonters Brave the Cold to Support Philippines Rebuilding Efforts

On January 22 at New Moon Cafe, Burlington-based international development firms SSG Advisors and TetraTech ARD hosted a fundraiser event for rebuilding efforts in the Philippines following last November’s Typhoon Haiyan. Our two organizations currently collaborate on a sustainable fisheries project called ECOFISH (Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries) in eight coastal Philippine communities, making the Burlington fundraiser a fitting endeavor.

While Haiyan was a major blow to the area, we are continuing with our work on ECOFISH to form strategic and community partnerships as the project enters its second year. SSG Advisors is linking ECOFISH project resources with leading multinational and Philippine companies, business associations, foundations, and government agencies. We are advancing ECOFISH goals through public private collaboration. We are addressing local needs by collaborating with stakeholders such as municipal governments, SMEs, fishing cooperatives, and a range of CBOs. We focus on improving livelihoods by strengthening community business planning for ventures such as value-added production, aquatic farming, and ecotourism development.

The fundraising event proved a powerful collaboration of Vermont-based community members and organizations. We were extremely proud and motivated by the outpouring support of over 100 Vermonters braving sub-zero cold to support the initiative.

During the fundraiser, we spoke by Skype with Gerry Silvestre, the ECOFISH project Chief of Party. Mr. Silvestre spoke to guests about the impact of the typhoon, especially on fishermen and their destroyed boats. He also touched on how the Philippine government and private sector have been able to provide only about 10% of what is realistically needed for a full recovery.



The fundraiser would not have been possible without the support and donations from New Moon Cafe, not only for their venue, but also for their amazing staff and food donations. Food and silent auction items were also donated by Zero Gravity Beer, City Market, Mirabelle’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Green Mountain Coffee, Frog Hollow, Stowe and Bolton ski resorts as well as many others. Notable Burlington bands Mint Julep and Nowa Randall Crosby with Franky Andreas donated their musical talent.



We raised over $3000, making it clear that Vermonters understand what extreme weather can do to rural communities, from Irene to Haiyan. Donations from this event went towards the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and Anscor, two non-profits in Coron, one of the many Philippine communities affected by the strongest typhoon ever known to hit land. PBSP and Anscor’s work provide essential goods and services to support relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts.