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 agrodealer 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 rural enterprises (agrodealers) selling agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers by facilitating agrodealer access to (a) training in business and financial management, (b) training in product knowledge, use and safety from input supply companies, (c) input supply companies willing to extend credit, (d) group loans for working capital from financial institutions and (e) 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. We achieved this goal by strengthening and expanding of our existing agrodealer network 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 strengthened 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 is helping private industry use these associations as a platform for policy advocacy;
  • Broad Technical Training Programs to include a range of important training topics for agrodealers such as rural lending (by Malawi Rural Finance Company); the seed industry (by STAM); and pesticides 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 agrodealers.

Program Impact:

  • $122,237,761 Amount of input sales from agrodealers to farmers;
  • 167 Agrodealers in the network that benefited from newly available inputs;
  • 150 Agrodealers that received input supply or working capital credit;
  • 510 Agrodealer staff trained in business management;
  • 170 Agrodealers that received technical training;
  • $54,388,023 Amount of supply company sales to agrodealers on credit supported by guarantees.