Rural Agricultural Input Supply Expansion Project


With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), CNFA, through its Malawi affiliate the Rural Market Development Trust (RUMARK), developed a proven and flexible model for a rural-based, commercially-viable agro-dealer network that provides inputs and technology to smallholders on a sustainable basis. The model is tailored to address local needs, conditions, and available resources, and combines a trade credit guarantee to help local input retailers expand inventories and services for smallholder clients with business skills training needed to manage their operations profitably and sustainably.

RUMARK’s initial project, Rural Agricultural Input Supply Expansion (RAISE), focused on increasing the number of agro-dealers selling inputs to smallholder farmers by facilitating agro-dealer access to training in business, financial management, and product knowledge, use and safety from input supply companies, input supply companies willing to extend credit, group loans for working capital from financial institutions, and demonstrations of product and technologies supported by input supply companies to stimulate demand.

RAISE’s goal was to increase rural household incomes, agricultural productivity, and output marketing channels of smallholder farmers. CNFA achieved this goal by strengthening and expanding existing agro-dealer networks in Malawi, thereby increasing access to inputs, technical knowledge, and linkages to resources for farmers. CNFA also facilitated the creation of a commercial business skills training network to deliver business and financial management training to rural retailers, and enlisted almost all of Malawi’s major input distribution companies in private sector partnerships to develop production linkages with these retailers.

Program Approach:

  • Created an Umbrella Agricultural Inputs Traders Association (AITA) made up of the Seed Trade Association of Malawi (STAM), Croplife Malawi, and the new Fertilizer Association. CNFA helped create and serves as the secretariat for both AITA and the Fertilizer Association, and will continue to help the private industry use these associations as a platform for policy advocacy;
  • Developed broad technical training programs to include a range of important training topics for agro-dealers such as rural lending (by Malawi Rural Finance Company), the seed industry (by STAM), and pesticide regulations;
  • Introduced a new training module on Managing Business Relations that blends elements of technical training and business management training. Training was delivered jointly by both CNFA staff and input supply company staff to better strengthen business linkages between the input suppliers and the agro-dealers.