Malawi Agrodealer Strengthening Program


The three-year Malawi Agro-dealer Strengthening Program (MASP) improved the input supply and output marketing distribution channels available to smallholder farmers in the underserved, remote areas of Malawi by developing a commercially viable network of agro-dealers. Prior to MASP interventions, these small farm stores were located mainly in urban areas and were therefore inaccessible for many farmers. In partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), CNFA provided targeted training in business management and productive farming methods and increased smallholder access to agro-dealers in remote areas, thereby raising rural incomes and increasing household productivity.

Program Approach:

  • Conducted a detailed survey of the existing agro-dealer network to identify underserved areas where new startups could be created;
  • Worked with input suppliers to develop and deliver technical training to agro-dealers and promote the use of improved seed;
  • Improved rural access to finance, which is difficult to obtain in remote areas due to the high cost of agricultural financing and high perceived risk by lending institutions;
  • Facilitated smallholder farmer access to larger markets for sale of their improved products;
  • Shaped agricultural policy to promote the interests of private sector growth.
  • Business Management Training:CNFA and MASP worked through commercial trainers to identify and train rural retailers in a six-module business management training program that culminated in agro-dealer certification. The business management training included sessions on: managing working capital, managing stocks, costing and pricing, selling and marketing, record keeping, and managing business relationships. MASP succeeded in training and certifying over 1,500 agro-dealers in Malawi;
  • Credit and Financial Services:After certifying agro-dealers, the program provided access to working capital and trade credit by linking them with input suppliers and microfinance institutions. CNFA leveraged private sector investments and backed commercial credit with a 50% credit guarantee. Almost 300 agro-dealers benefited from MASP’s guarantee component. In addition to improving smallholder access to key value chains and trade in rural markets, CNFA supported capacity building programs and the development of agricultural-specific lending products for financial institutions in Malawi;
  • Technical Training:The program also helped input suppliers to develop and deliver technical training to agro-dealers in product knowledge, handling and safe use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and use of improved seed. Training was complemented by increased smallholder farmer awareness of, and demand for, improved inputs through demonstration plots and farmer field days. CNFA worked with stakeholders, including the Pesticides Control Board and other groups, to increase their institutional capacity to deliver technical knowledge to smallholder farmers;
  • Agricultural Policy Reform:CNFA worked to improve agricultural policy by increasing the role of the private sector in policy advocacy, decreasing the government’s role in the inputs market and minimizing market distorting subsidies and government interventions. In Malawi, CNFA helped to create the Agriculture Inputs Traders Association (AITA) and worked with AITA to develop a white paper on fertilizer subsidies that was presented to the government. This submission led to a change from direct government distribution of fertilizer to a farmer-held voucher-based system;
  • Output Marketing:CNFA strengthened the linkage between input and output distribution channels and used the rural retailer as a link back to cash markets for their farmer customers. In Malawi, agro-dealers frequently served as a point of market information, traded in outputs as well as inputs, and often engaged in primary processing, storage, or handling. To foster and strengthen capacity to fill this varied role, MASP provided agro-dealers with small matching grants to improve storage facilities, put in small processing facilities, and invest more deeply in equipment for farmer outputs. CNFA trained 217 agro-dealers in output marketing;
  • Animal Health and Veterinary Training:Many of the agro-dealers surveyed provided veterinary supplies and animal healthcare products for rural farmers. As such, technical experts provided training on how to approach veterinary service provision, stock veterinary supplies, feed supplements, and link with wholesale suppliers;
  • Association Development:Association development efforts resulted in a sustainable forum for advocacy on behalf of small business agro-dealers throughout Malawi. Through MASP, CNFA strengthened associations through trainings on organizational management, member services, networking, advocacy, and capacity building. Overall, MASP supported nine agricultural associations and 29 agro-dealer associations.