First Female Agro-Retailer Certified by the Agro-Inputs Retailers’ Network

First Female Agro-Retailer Certified by the Agro-Inputs Retailers’ Network

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Following the death of her husband 27 years ago, Parvin Aziz was uncertain of her family’s future. In Bangladesh, widows face social and economic hardships and often remain dependent on male family members or children for their livelihoods.  Every day Parvin dreamed of a better life in which she could provide for her two children. She understood she would have to be strong, smart and remain productive for their benefit. “I didn’t know what to do until my in-laws encouraged me to take over my husband’s seed business. I was lucky I had the support of my in-laws when I continued the family’s agro-inputs business.”

The AIRN learned about Parvin’s entrepreneurial spirt and offered her the opportunity to attend trainings to build her capacity as an agro-input retailer. “When I discovered the AIRN I recognized it as an opportunity to improve my business and to learn more about quality agro-inputs,” remarked Parvin. “Now, I encourage female entrepreneurs to become involved in the agro-inputs business because it helped me raise my family. I know how important it is for mothers to earn money for their families,” she added.  Parvin completed a three-day training on business management, safe use of pesticides and best agronomic practices which resulted in her certification as the first female AIRN Accredited member.

The increasing participation of women in the commercial sale of agro-inputs means more women are able to contribute to their family’s income. It improves women’s decision making power over allocation of household income and is beneficial to the whole family. Since becoming a certified AIRN retailer, Parvin has indicated that positive outcomes of running her business include increased self-confidence, improved business management skills and knowledge of nutritious crops, as well as an increased ability to provide quality embedded services to farmer-customers. The AIRN is continuing to focus its effort on recruiting female agro-input retailers like Parvin to promote the importance of female entrepreneurs so that more women can support their families and participate in the agricultural economy. By the end of the project, AIP will help create at least 300 women-owned retailers which will join the AIRN.

The AIRN is a network of agro-input retailers committed to selling quality agro-input products. It was created by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by CNFA. The AIRN members undergo trainings that improve their knowledge about quality agro-inputs, which expand their business and increase their profits. With quality agro-inputs there is quality production to feed families and improve the agricultural economy in Bangladesh.

New Cash Market for Fruit and Vegetable Growers

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The Georgian horticulture sector has significant untapped potential for growth that has been validated by a rapidly increasing export rate in the last few years. Official statistics for stone fruit exports in 2014 show an increase of 108% ($3MM) compared to 2013. Georgia has made increasing agricultural exports a strategic priority and identified the overall availability of effective postharvest activities as a key indicator of success. Given this reality, USAID’s REAP program awarded matching grants to 13 emerging agribusinesses to install modern refrigerated cold storage systems for fruits and vegetables.

Established in 2012, Georgian Fruit Company’s (GFC) initial business activities involved renting warehouses in different regions of Georgia to consolidate produce from local farmers for export. Utilizing a REAP grant and favorable loan terms from the Agricultural Projects Management Agency (APMA), GFC installed a new 400 m3 refrigerated cold storage unit with modern packing and boxing mechanisms in the Gurjaani district of eastern Georgia.

Additionally, a new calibration machine that sorts fruits by color and size provided further incentive for local farmers to work with GFC and the company’s modern agricultural technologies to increase their productivity and sales.

In the first half of 2015, tangerine, apple, and cucumber exports to Ukraine and Russia have increased by 50%, totaling 280 tons. Currently, GFC is working with more than 100 peach and nectarine farmers in Kakheti to meet an export demand of more than 1,500 tons from their various international partners.

Mobile Literacy Training Enables Women Entrepreneurs to Make Informed Decisions

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(Above: Ms. Almaz Delgeba with her mobile while attending her milking cows.)

Mrs. Almaz Delgeba is a female entrepreneur who lives in Lera, Berebera district of Selta zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). Almaz is a leader of a dairy association in her locality, with 13 members scattered in a rural setting. One of her duties is to facilitate meetings beween association members where participants can market information as well as announce upcoming meetings. For Almaz, a middle-aged woman with six dependent children, moving around the village to convey messages was very challenging. A year ago, however, she was approached by USAID’s AGP-LMD Project and asked to take training on mobile use for women entrepreneurs, which led to the purchase of a mobile phone.

At the training, Almaz learned how to use a calculator, how to fill in money and how to save contacts.   “At the beginning, the only thing I knew was how to receive and make phone calls. The practical training on how to use more of the tools on my mobile is now helping me to exchange timely market information and to also manage some parts of the finances in a better way,” said Almaz.

“There have been many cases when I had to use my mobile for emergency calls to the animal health workers in the locality when the milking cows got sick. Timely treatment enabled them to recover,” elaborated Almaz, who is also in charge of looking after the three milking cows quartered in her compound. Without a mobile phone and the know-how to use it, Almaz’s only option would be to walk or to send one of her boys if he wasn’t in school.  “If I take transport to pass the message, it would cost me 30 birr; making the call may cost me 10 birr,” she added.

Almaz still finds it challenging to recharge her mobile phone. Her village doesn’t have power, so she needs to travel to the nearby town to recharge.

“I daily spend two birr to recharge. The transport cost makes it more costly,” she said; though the benefits for her do outweigh the costs. Her association, which began with three heifers a year ago, is now supplying milk to a nearby café; and two of the heifers have given birth. Thanks to her phone she was able to check the prices of milk in other towns before fixing her association’s price at 14 to 15 birr per liter. “Within the next 3–6 months, my plan is to buy a better mobile with more tools, as what I have sometimes cuts off in the middle of a talk. I will make sure that the new one includes a radio, as it will teach me about different things while I perform my duties,” added Almaz.

Almaz is grateful for the support from USAID; and she has shared her know-how with five of the association’s 13 members who own mobile phones in order to help them benefit as well.

USAID Empowers Self-Employed Women to Become Entrepreneurs

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Five years ago, Hajira Beyene, and her family of 12 became beneficiaries of the Ethiopian government’s safety net program – an initiative that supports the poorest of the poor in food insecure districts of the country to help them meet their basic needs and become self-sufficient – in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). For 38-year-old Hajira, who is the head of her family, the 750 birr she received a month from the safety net program, along with food rations, was helpful, but far from enough.

Hajira knew she had to take matters into her own hands to ensure that her family would survive and escape poverty. She decided to start rearing and selling goats, by using one female goat that she received from a charitable organization known as Goal, and selling seasonal vegetables, which she planted in her yard when the rains allowed. Despite her efforts, lack of technical and business skills hamstrung Hajira’s efforts and left her without fair return, keeping her family reliant on the safety net program.

Hajira is one of the 63 women from the Amhara, SNNP and Tigray regions who received a four-month training on business management and leadership skills organized by USAID’s Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) project from February to May 2015. The training taught the women how to become successful business operators by offering training in resource management, as well as improving their participation in the leadership and decision-making process of their businesses.


“The knowledge I gained from the training has entered my bones, not just my head,” Hajira siad.


The training has given her the confidence to take immediate action in purchasing one more goat for rearing by better managing some cash she had. “I purchased a new goat for 650 birr. She is expecting and will be giving birth in two months’ time, and the twin from the old goat will be ready for sale in a few months. Unlike before, I plan to sell them at a better price, and save the income from one of the goats’ sales, so that I can plan to build a better barn for the expansion,” said Hajira who mentioned lack of capital, as her main challenge.
According to Hajira before the training she never considered borrowing from the savings and credit association in her village for fear of not being able to pay back the money “Every 15 days, I contribute five birr to the association. If I borrow money, I need to pay it back within three months together with the interest based on the borrowed amount. My fear of doing so was always based on not having the source to pay back,” explained Hajira, who thinks that the training has now given her the self-confidence to overcome this difficulty as she will practice better financial management thanks to the knowledge she gained from the training.

As the safety net program of the government is set to terminate this year with a probability of being replaced with a different program, this training by USAID is a timely contribution to support Hajira’s transformation, and that of other women, into self-reliance. “There was a time when my first born had to drop out of school after he reached the ninth grade, because I couldn’t put him a school uniform. Although he is a year behind his class mates, I was able to work hard and send him back to school,” Hajira, who herself dropped out of school from the sixth grade as a result of unwanted marriage, said. She is firm in wanting to invest more in her children’s education, including her nine-year-old grandchild who is in the first grade, and whom she supports after he lost both of his parents at an early age.

Demonstrating New Techniques for Pollinating Pomegranate Flowers

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Although Azerbaijan has been a major supplier of fruits and vegetables to Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere in the region since the Soviet era, it is able to export very few agricultural products to modern markets. Due largely to an inability to provide sufficient volumes and consistent quality, most of the country’s fruits and vegetables are not internationally competitive. Azerbaijani pomegranates, however, have the potential to be a notable exception. The country already exports a variety of processed pomegranate products, including narsharab, a traditional Azerbaijani sauce. Unfortunately, farmers selling to processors are price-takers and are paid very little for their produce. Therefore, to help them increase their incomes, the USAID Agricultural Assistance to Azerbaijan Project (ASAP) is working with pomegranate growers to improve quality for both the export and premium domestic markets.

Mr. Eyvaz Samedov, who has a farm in the Goychay region of central Azerbaijan, is a good example of the kind of grower that ASAP is assisting. Around 6-7 years ago, he planted four different pomegranate varieties (of the over 20 grown in the country) on a 60-hectare orchard. Although his trees are in good physical condition, his lack of agronomic knowledge has prevented him from achieving the required production quantities and quality, forcing him to sell his entire harvest last year for the extremely low prices paid by domestic processors. An input dealer who has worked with Samedov in the past and was aware of his difficulties, referred ASAP to him in early 2015.

ASAP began by providing basic growing recommendations that Mr. Samedov committed to implementing on a dedicated three hectares of his orchard in order to compare the results of these new efforts with his existing yields and quality. Then, on ASAP’s recommendation, Samedov purchased a cultivator and chemical sprayer (at a total cost of 9300 AZN), and initiated the application of mineral fertilizers for the first time, buying six tons of triple 16 and four tons of urea (for 3080 AZN).

Besides providing technical assistance in pruning, weed control, irrigation and pest management, ASAP decided to introduce pollination of early pomegranate flowers to the farm. By purchasing bumblebees, placing the hive in the center of the demo plot, and ensuring that the bees were provided with plenty of water, pollination within 200 meters of the hive was facilitated. Pomegranate flowers that are pollinated earlier in the season typically produce larger, higher quality fruit. In the future, ASAP will work with Mr. Samedov on improving his harvesting techniques as well as improving his postharvest handling and storage capacity. With proper implementation, he will be soon able to sell his product to the much more lucrative fresh market, both domestically and to Russia, with the potential to eventually initiate exports to EU countries.

Promoting School Milk Days in Ethiopia

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The USAID-supported Agricultural Growth Program – Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) kicked off a series of events known as “School Milk Days” aimed to increase the awareness and knowledge of school age children, parents and teachers about milk in Ethiopia. The project organized these events as part of a campaign to stress the nutrition and benefits of milk to normal growth and development.


Watch this short video to learn more about this activity.

Improving Livelihoods and Nutrition through Dairy Production

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USAID’s Agricultural Growth Program – Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) in Ethiopia partnered with Project Mercy, a faith-based development and relief organization, to help improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of Ethiopians.


Watch this short video to learn more about this partnership.

Agrodealer Strengthening Program

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CNFA returned to the birthplace of its widely respected agro-dealer model, first developed in Zimbabwe from 2000 to 2005 and since successfully implemented in Kenya, Malawi, Mali, and Tanzania. When CNFA closed out its program in Zimbabwe in 2005, it had built a network of 1,030 trained agro-dealers covering much of the country. The 18-month Agro-dealer Strengthening Program (ASP-Z) aimed to revitalize and create a more robust network of agro-dealers through which improved inputs and technology could flow to rural smallholder farmers, increasing agricultural production and improving rural livelihoods. ASP-Z laid the framework for a vibrant input supply sector, which created jobs, improved livelihoods, and brought food security to thousands of individuals, bolstering rural economies throughout the provinces of Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, and Midlands.

Program Approach:

  1. Provided training in business management, as well as technical training on new crop varieties, production technologies, and the safe use, handling, and storage of fertilizers and crop protection products;
  2. Worked with agro-dealers, input suppliers, and research institutions to stimulate demand for improved inputs and production practices through demonstration plots and farmer field days;
  3. Stimulated investment in agro-dealers and increased rural access to finance through guarantee and matching grants facilities;
  4. Created sustainable agro-dealer associations to advocate for member interests.

Tanzania Agrodealer Strengthening Program

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Launched in 2007, the Tanzania Agro-dealer Strengthening Program (TASP), funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, has been successful in building and supporting a vibrant agro-dealer network capable of serving smallholder farmer demands for improved inputs, services, and marketing. Like CNFA’s other agro-dealer development programs, TASP focused on business and technical training as well as capacity building. Programming also focused on facilitating access to financial services, output marketing, processing, value adding services, and policy advocacy through association development.

TASP also designed and supported the Tanzanian government’s targeted subsidy program to link agro-dealers to the local seed industry and has been scaled up to foster the development of a nationwide rural market network. In 2010, TASP expanded into new districts, allowing CNFA to improve productivity and incomes for additional farm households in remote and underserved areas. Since 2007, TASP has certified over 2,600 agro-dealers, who are providing products and services to over 1.5 million smallholder farmers and improving the lives of nearly 8 million people.

Program Approach:

  • Built agro-dealer capacity to better serve farmers through a proven six-part technical training covering: managing working capital, managing stocks, selling and marketing, basic record keeping, costing and pricing, and managing business relationships;
  • Facilitated demand creation by establishing demonstration plots and farmer field days showcasing new agricultural inputs;
  • Promoted improved linkage to financial services for agro-dealers through forums and clinics focusing on licensing, completion of a business plan, and access to capital.

Seed Industry & Smart Input Subsidy Distribution: At the program’s outset, CNFA focused on the five Southern Highlands districts targeted by the Government of Tanzania (GoT) for its smart, targeted subsidy program (Fast Track Districts) and five districts in the Arusha, Meru, and Kilimanjaro regions in Northern Tanzania. In Year 2, TASP expanded into the seven other districts in Manyara and Morogoro regions. Around Arusha, CNFA integrated agro-dealer development efforts with initiatives to improve Tanzania’s local seed industry, including foundation seed enterprises and local seed companies. Early activities focused on the design of a smart input subsidy program for sustainably implementing government subsidies to targeted communities and on developing the network of agro-dealers necessary to implement this subsidy program.

Association Development: CNFA supported seven district associations that were fully registered and ten that were in nascent stages of development. One of the associations supported by CNFA was the Songea Agro-dealer Association (SADA). SADA offers a powerful example of the benefits that a well-run association can accrue for its members and the influence that can be exerted. For example:

  • SADA successfully advocated against the practice of Regional and District officials dictating prices at which inputs could be sold;
  • SADA also proposed the “master input subsidy” concept that CNFA later brought to the MAFC, which would be issued by district officials on presentation of numerous input subsidies by the agro-dealer;
  • Where individual group members (particularly startup agro-dealers) experienced difficulty in securing input supply credit, SADA managed to successfully negotiate for credit as an association;
  • SADA leased an office in Songea Town and hired a coordinator to administer their activities.

Strengthening the Agro-dealer Network: TASP encouraged the establishment of new agro-dealerships in remote, underserved areas through matching grants, a credit guarantee facility, and demand creation activity that gave the farmer an opportunity to physically witness the benefits of improved agronomic practices and inputs. In addition, technical trainings to strengthen agro-dealer capacity, agro-dealer association development, and linking agro-dealers to financial institutions were key parts of the approach.

The Business Management Training (BMT) raised agro-dealers’ business standards of management and acumen, allowing the MAFC to exclusively link the handling of the subsidy inputs to agro-dealers’ successful completion of BMT. CNFA trained an additional 849 agro-dealers in 24 districts beyond the 17 in the original TASP scope to pave the way for the National Agricultural Inputs Voucher Scheme.