Notice of Funding Opportunity – Partnerships for Strengthening Women and Youth Economic Empowerment at Mercy Corps Nigeria (4 Openings)

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Notice of Funding Opportunity – Partnerships for Strengthening Women and Youth Economic Empowerment at Mercy Corps Nigeria (4 Openings)

Mercy Corps is a global team of humanitarians who partner with communities, corporations and governments to transform lives around the world. Our 5,500+ team members work with people in the world’s most vulnerable communities across 40+ countries. 87 percent of our team is from the countries where they work.

Applications are invited for:

Title: Notice of Funding Opportunity – Partnerships for Strengthening Women and Youth Economic Empowerment in Adamawa, Borno, Gombe and Yobe States

Job ref.: 72062020CA00002RFA02
Locations: Adamawa, Borno, Gombe and Yobe
Reference: Issued Under USAID Feed the Future/Nigeria #72062020CA00002RFA02
Subject: Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) RRA/LM/02

Background

  • Through this Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity (or the “Activity”) aims to identify potential partners and innovative approaches that leverage USAID resources to develop practical and market-driven solutions to implement innovative business models targeting smallholder farmers, youth, women and micro-enterprises who have been affected by the protracted conflicts in North eastern Nigeria.
  • The Rural Resilience Activity is a Feed the Future initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented by Mercy Corps in partnership with Save the Children International (SCI) and International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC). The goal of the Rural Resilience Activity is to ‘facilitate and protect economic recovery and growth in vulnerable, conflict-affected areas and sustainably move people out of chronic vulnerability and poverty via expanded opportunities’. This goal will be achieved through the following four major components. The Activity seeks to increase incomes, improve the livelihood and resilience of households through market-led growth in 4 States in North Eastern Nigeria (Borno, Adamawa, Gombe and Yobe).
  • Layered on the principles of broadened and inclusive growth through agricultural competitiveness; the Activity objectives are:
    • Inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth;
    • Strengthened resilience among people and systems; and
    • A well-nourished population, especially women and children, thereby contributing to sustainable reductions in malnutrition and poverty. Through this NOFO, the Activity seeks partnerships with private sector players such as business development service providers, civil society organisation etc. with a presence or interested to permanently expand a presence in some of the 4 States.
  • The Applicants should demonstrate that they are capable of operationalizing a profitable business model that benefits women and youth whose ability to secure better livelihoods has been compromised by the protracted conflict in North Eastern Nigeria. RRA understands that resilience capacities of people has been weakened, constraining economic activities especially for women and youth.
  • The Activity seeks to offer opportunities that will yield partnership to a least 5,000 youth and women entrepreneurs in the project locations as a strategy for reactivating their recovery and deepening their resiliency to the impact of conflict. To achieve greater gender inclusion, the Activity uses women’s economic empowerment and its main elements, defined by: economic advancement – increased income and return on labour.

Access Dimensions:

  • Access to opportunities and life chances such as skills development or job openings;
  • Access to assets, services, and needed supports to advance economically.

Agency Dimensions:

  • Decision-making authority in different spheres including household finances;
  • Control over manageable workloads.
  • The NOFO offers interested parties the opportunity to submit grants applications for partnerships. Building on these identified dimensions of women’s and youth’s economic empowerment, the Rural Resilience Activity seeks partners to employ valuable approaches to encourage the inclusion of women and youth as viable actors in market systems. Women and youth offer new markets for products and services; women can be excellent suppliers of raw materials to traders, processors, and other ‘core’ actors; women are often reliable and productive employees who expand labour pools; and, in the majority of households globally, women contribute to, or even control, buying decisions. Responses to the grants application should identify how actions proposed, with the support of USAID, would promote the target farmer’s recovery from the shocks and stress induced by conflict and mutually deepen the farmers and other value chain actors’ resiliency and positioning for commercial growth and profit. The Activity will select up to 2 – 4 partners to fund under this opportunity.
  • Subject to the availability of funds, Rural Resilience Activity intends to award 2 – 4 grants to eligible companies, as defined in Section D, up to a maximum amount of US $150,000 per award. Amounts above this value may be approved if one applicant works in more than one State. The expected duration of support to the Activity or the period of performance is twelve (12) months. Mercy Corps, as the primary implementer of the Feed the Future/Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity, reserves the right to fund any or none of the proposals submitted.

For this program, this NOFO is being issued and consists of this cover letter and the following:

  • Section A – Statement of Objectives
  • Section B – Requirements
  • Section C – Selection Process
  • Section D – Evaluation Criteria

Section A: Statement of Objectives

  • The Rural Resilience Activity aims to increase smallholder household incomes and reduce poverty in North eastern Nigeria through their improved participation in inclusive agribusiness value chains and market opportunities. The Activity interventions are delivered in line with the market systems development framework placing at the center the need to unlock bottlenecks that weaken market relationships and limit inclusive profitable participation. The Activity seeks to improve the resilience capacities of insurgent- or conflict-affected households, communities, and market systems using market-led approaches layered with complementary investments in humanitarian assistance in order to contribute to economic recovery and growth.
  • Working closely with public, political civil society and economic actors, the Activity seeks to broaden, and support inclusive and resilient growth through agricultural competitiveness. The Activity objectives include:
    • Inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth;
    • Strengthened resilience among people and systems; and
    • A well-nourished population, especially women and children, thereby contributing to sustainable reductions in global hunger, malnutrition and poverty. The Activity seeks to reinforce practices that move away from dependency on non-market driven initiatives. In addition, Activity seeks to facilitate the growth of firms that are committed to investing in inclusive agricultural business models and support services in the areas of finance and provision of agri-enterprise related interconnected services in North eastern Nigeria.
  • The Activity’s vision for north eastern Nigeria is a process by which the region achieves a step-change in scale driven by competitive, inclusive and resilient growth.

Figure 1: The Market Systems Continuum:

  • The Activity encourages private sector firms to adopt innovative business models that leverage technology to reduce transactional costs, improve supply chain management, and support farmers on how to use products and services. Digital platforms and record management will also support transparency and accountability under awards. The Activity anticipates that if the private sector, CSO, faith-based organization and rural households, farmers, and communities in NEN will subsequently adopt improved business models, increase farm productivity, expand economic options and revenues.
  • The Activity approach seeks to address systemic barriers to women and youths’ participation in the inclusive markets. The Activity takes a gender-responsive approach to sustainable livelihoods development that requires that the needs and realities of both men and women are recognized and adequately addressed in the design and application of inclusive interventions. The program approach emphasizes interventions that promote equity rather than mere equality. Interventions that merely focus on gender equality without attention to the need to promote equity continue to propagate differences in the market opportunities that men and women secure.
  • In this respect, the Activity supported interventions seek to support women’s leadership and enabling policies at the firm levelposition women and youth beyond production as inclusive agents and lead farmers as well as promote inclusive marketing strategies which target marginalized groups: women, youth and communities for instance in IDPs and host communities as customers.

Problem Statement
In North eastern Nigeria, women and youth face distinct challenges in participating in the productive sectors of the economy. Although women and youth are not a homogeneous group and their circumstances vary according to age, class, education, ethnicity, location and other cultural- and socio-economic characteristics, it is widely acknowledged that women and youth bear a disproportionate burden of poverty. Large and growing youth unemployment threatens economic resilience and social stability, and women continue to experience barriers in almost every aspect of economic life.

Women suffer from persistent social and cultural discrimination and unequal access to and control over assets and services. The primary focus of RRA through this call are in areas of knowledge, skills, technologies and business support services needed to enable women and youth to engage in productive activities, generate income, and thereby reduce poverty. RRA seeks to partner with private sector firms, faith-based organisations, and civil society organisations to expand capacity-building activities and policies improvements so as to equip women and youth with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to seize economic opportunities, gain control of their lives and exert influence in society. Illustrative business models include:

  • Business models that increase capacity building, training, and mentorship of youth in Agribusinesses for increased participation of youth in agricultural production enterprises improving livelihoods
  • Commercial cases that strengthen women and youth owned micro-enterprises.
  • Business models that enhance technical and entrepreneurship skills of women and youth in value addition, market information systems, business linkages, and business development initiatives.
  • Formation of youth and women savings groups, mentoring, coaching, and linkages to financial institutions for loan services. Training on social inclusion, women and youth leadership, and collective bargaining power.
  • Initiatives that support trade and processing that are important sources of income and employment for a majority of women and youth.

Section B: Special Grant Requirements
The Activity grant aims to support private sector actors, CSOs, faith based organisations, and women and youth entrepreneurs to build a sustainable opportunity to engage in exchange in goods and services. Specifically, this funding opportunity seeks to leverage networks of rural households served by private sector firms such as input distributors or buyers under out-grower schemes to:

  • Enable companies to innovate a business model that offers mutual benefit between them and the youth, and women in NEN.
  • Support companies to expand to strengthen aggregation, private extension, and digitized networks of farmer suppliers and customers and/or build their capacities.
  • Support companies to grow sales, leverage investments, increase their customer base, etc. and CSOs, faith-based organisations to deepen their impact.

The Activity seeks to identify 2 – 4 private sector firms, civil society organisations, faith based organisations etc. that are already in the business of offering services to youth and women as either input distributors, agri-services providers, financial and business services providers, traders, processors, offtakers, agri-tech providers and/or under outgrower models. Larger companies will identify the aggregators, retailers, and agents. The Activity seeks to reduce market distortions arising from the infusion of grant funds. Care should be taken to ensure that the structure of the promotion or discount does not negatively affect long-term market sustainability.

  • The award will be directly managed by the Rural Resilience Activity with USAID support. This solicitation intends to enter into a business metric-based milestone agreement that includes interventions that fit the evaluation criteria outlined in Section D below.
  • The number of partnerships available will be determined based on interest, funding available, and quality of proposals. The proposed projects are anticipated to begin by September 2021 and end on or before September 2022. However, proposals could be submitted for multi-year activities over multi-year phases, with phase 1 to cover a maximum of one year.
  • The total value of each award from the Rural Resilience Activity for this solicitation is estimated to range from US$25,000 – US$150,000 with 25 to 30 partnerships anticipated. Proposals must make business sense for the partner and must demonstrate a significant impact for smallholder farmers and MSMEs.
  • As the amount of an award is subject to negotiation, a negotiated award amount may or may not fall within this range. Furthermore, the Rural Resilience Activity is not obligated to issue awards/an award up to the number of funds available. Grantees may be required to cover and create leverage of minimum over the next one year of 30% of the total cost.
  • Application reviews will take place in August and September 2021. All applicants will be notified of their application status at this time. Note that immediate negotiations and site visits will occur with successful applicants around September 2021. Site visits and other engagements requiring physical interactions will take into consideration relevant COVID-19 guidelines from the Federal and targeted State Governments in Nigeria. Please make sure the proposed project manager and a decision-maker will be available at that time since negotiations and site visits are required steps in the award process for selected applications.

Award Performance Management:
The Activity will work with the awardees to establish reporting and traceability requirements to track the details of all rural households/individuals doing business with the Applicant in North eastern Nigeria. It is anticipated that the Activity can reach 1,000 youths and women groups and enterprises per award. The awardees will specifically be required to provide assorted monitoring and evaluation data to the Rural Resilience Activity such as:

  • # Of youth and women reached through the various activity
  • # Names of beneficiaries, their locations, gender, age
  • # Type of products purchased/sold including volume and cost

This funding opportunity is expected to generate business for the participating private sector companies enabling their recovery from Covid-induced low commercial activity. This in turn is expected to position the private sector companies and the targeted households and communities to strengthen the development and implementation of their adaptive, responsive and transformative capacities to enhance resiliency. The Activity will monitor various parameters to determine companies’ resiliency and adaptation to covid business environment through tracking the following against baseline data:

  • # Volume and value of inputs sold on the market
  • # Of staff employed by the companies
  • # Of embedded services provided by the companies

Awards under this NOFO will be time-bound and monitored to keep track of the promotional and discount offers provided to farmers. Awardees will have a deadline; after which time they will be required to engage with the farmers without further discounts.

Section C: Selection Process

  • Within ten (10) working days of the deadline for submitting expressions of interest, a technical review panel will convene. RRA shall take steps to ensure that members of the review panel do not have any conflicts of interest or the appearance of such with regard to the organizations whose applicants are under review.
  • An individual shall be considered to have the appearance of a conflict of interest if that person, or that person’s spouse, partner, child, a close friend or relative works for or is negotiating to work for, or has a financial interest (including being an unpaid member of a Board of Directors) in any organization that applied currently under the panel’s review. Members of the panel shall neither solicit nor accept gratuities, favours, or anything of monetary value from parties to the awards.
  • The status of the EOIs received, whether accepted or rejected, shall be communicated to all applicants within thirty (30) days. All Applications that meet the NOFO requirements will be reviewed by the review panel.

Eligibility

  • For this Call for Applications, the Rural Resilience Activity is interested in partnering with: for-profit private sector companies’ foreign organizations (referred to as non-U.S. NGOs): either non-profit or for-profit organizations that meet the definition in 2 CFR 200.47 can apply as part of a consortium. However, the lead applicant must be legally registered in Nigeria.
  • Applicants must have a DUNS number (a nine-digit identification number required for all procurement- related activities). A DUNS number is not required for application, but will be required for receipt of award.
  • Social enterprises such as community-based organizations with commercial business models are encouraged to apply.
  • Applicants must be Nigerian licensed and legal private input companies, business organizations/associations/cooperatives working in Nigeria. Individual consultants will not be considered for this NOFO.
  • Previous or ongoing work with RRA does NOT preclude applicants from participating. Current partners encouraged to apply.

Section D: Evaluation Criteria

  • Upon submission, the Activity Team will evaluate all Concept Note applications using the following criteria:
  • Business Case: Applicants will be evaluated on how the proposed partnership will meet business goals and objectives while engaging and supporting smallholder farmers. Applicants should introduce the proposed product or service and present a clear business case for it. Applicants should explain how the proposed activity complements and aligns with Rural Resilience Activity Objectives.
  • Commercial viability where applicable: Applicants will be evaluated on the potential for growth of the product or service in the smallholder market. The market opportunity should be explained, including any market constraints faced by the business. Confirmation of long-term commitment to engaging smallholder farmers in business operations should be provided. Applicants will be evaluated on how the product or services will continue to scale post-funding. Applicants should provide a five-year projection of revenue, costs, and net income.
  • Youth and women Impact: Applicants will be evaluated on the perceived level of impact on smallholder farmers and microenterprises especially women and youth. Applicants must indicate the number of smallholder farmers and microenterprises they intend to reach and how the partnership will expand market opportunities, improve nutrition, strengthen resilience and increase incomes for these groups. For this funding opportunity, smallholders are defined as farmers who cultivate less than five hectares and micro enterprises are defined as businesses that employ 1-9 employees including the business owner.
  • Organizational Capacity: Applicants will be evaluated on business and management qualifications in regards to scaling products or services that target smallholder farmers and microenterprises. Applicants should articulate the organization’s experience (track record) operating in smallholder markets, identify any potential capacity gaps in systems or management, and provide solutions for filling those gaps.
  • Instructions: Number of points in the following table should be tailored to each project. Cost is a determining factor though this criterion should be weighted less than the other five.

Evaluation Criteria
Business Case:

  • Applicants will be evaluated on how the proposed partnership will meet business goals and objectives while engaging and supporting women and youths. Applicants should introduce the proposed product or service and present a clear business case for it. Applicants should explain how the proposed activity complements and aligns with Rural Resilience Activity Objectives. (40 Points)

Commercial Viability Where Applicable:

  • Applicants will be evaluated on the potential for growth of the product or service in the smallholder market. The market opportunity should be explained, including any market constraints faced by the business.
  • Confirmation of long-term commitment to engaging smallholder farmers in business operations should be provided. Applicants will be evaluated on how the product or services will continue to scale post-funding. Applicants should provide a five-year projection of revenue, costs, and net income. (20 Points)

Women and Youth Impact:

  • Applicants will be evaluated on the perceived level of impact on smallholder farmers and microenterprises especially women and youth. Applicants must indicate the number of smallholder farmers and microenterprises they intend to reach and how the partnership will expand market opportunities, improve nutrition, strengthen resilience and increase incomes for these groups. For this funding opportunity, smallholders are defined as farmers who cultivate less than five hectares and micro enterprises are defined as businesses that employ 1-9 employees including the business owner. (25 Points)

Organizational Capacity:

  • Applicants will be evaluated on business and management qualifications in regards to scaling products or services that target smallholder farmers and microenterprises. Applicants should articulate the organization’s experience (track record) operating in smallholder markets, identify any potential capacity gaps in systems or management, and provide solutions for filling those gaps. (15 Points)

Total: 100 Points.

Application Closing Date
27th August, 2021.

Method of Application
Interested and qualified applicants should send an email requesting interest to participate in an information meeting to: rra-rfa@mercycorps.org and a meeting will be organized for applicants individually or as a group and as appropriate.

Information Meeting

  • The information meeting will provide an opportunity for interested applicants to learn more about the opportunity and the process.
  • Attendance at the information meeting is an optional requirement by applicants.

Important Information and Notice

  • Award will be made to the responsible applicant(s) whose application(s) offers the best value for money.
  • Issuance of this NOFO does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Activity, nor does it commit the Activity to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of an application. Applications are submitted at the risk of the applicant. All preparation and submission costs are at the applicant’s expense.
  • Any questions concerning this NOFO should be submitted in writing not later than ten (10) days prior to the closing date shown above to rra-rfa@mercycorps.org. Applicants should retain for their records one copy of all enclosures which accompany their application.
  • Thank you for your interest in Feed the Future / Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity activities.

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