Input Supply and Farm Services

CNFA believes that improved access to agricultural inputs and services is one of the most important ways to boost yields and help smallholders move from subsistence to more market-oriented farming. These improvements in turn yield higher profits and improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers and their families. While the input and farm service sectors are unique from country to country, what holds true in all countries is that improving local retail access to inputs and services has the potential to empower rural entrepreneurs to reach thousands of farmers.

Based on this challenge and belief, we developed three input supply models, all based on a one-stop-shop model to increase access to inputs, services and output marketing. Using a profitable business model, each conducts a large number of small transactions that are driven by and adapted to local production, markets and entrepreneurs to satisfy the local needs of smallholder farmers in their communities.

  • Agrodealer Model
  • Machinery Service Model
  • Farm Service Center Model

Our approach to improving access to agricultural inputs and farm services relies on cultivating a sustainable commercial relationship between service providers and producers. We believe that when private-sector enterprises have financial support and improved business and technical skills, they are better able to serve as skilled input retailers who can offer the kind of high-quality, market-oriented products and services that produce the best results for farmers, encourage customer loyalty, and result in business sustainability.

CNFA’s Agrodealer Model improves smallholder farmer incomes and productivity through strengthening agrodealers, village-level one-stop-shop enterprises that allow farmers convenient access to improved inputs and technologies, technical training, market information and output opportunities. Building a strong network of agrodealers strengthens the overall agricultural sec­tor of a country as these enterprises become centers for input supply, equipment purchase, training, and agricultural best practices. For agrodealers to become thriving enterprises, owners often need business training and technical assistance.

In partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, we established a network of agrodealers across Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. At the centerpiece of our agrodealer strategy, we established local affiliates and strengthened them to become sustainable local NGOs to increase the flow of inputs to smallholder farmers, enhance agricultural productivity and incomes, and build government capacity to effectively utilize private sector capacity in formulating and implementing agricultural development programs.

Across the board, we certified more than 7,000 agrodealers.

We certify agrodealers after they have completed a rigorous six-module business training program covering working capital, inventory control, sales and marketing, record keeping, and managing business relationships.

CNFA’s Farm Service Center Model is a market-based, private sector model that applies matching grant and training methodology to establish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that deliver farm supplies and services. While larger in size, inventory and service provision than the aforementioned agrodealer enterprises, FSCs are often located in larger townships and serve as rural development centers that meet the needs of private farmers in their communities. FSCs provide a range of agricultural inputs (crop protection materials, fertilizers and seeds), machinery services, veterinary services and products, marketing assistance for agricultural outputs, training and information, and access to credit.

Complimenting business and technical skill training, CNFA also encourages these enterprises to contribute financially to the development of their businesses through matching grants. While the partner-funded portion of grants enables enterprises to fund initial start-up or improvement costs, CNFA grantees themselves also make financial and asset contributions, thus building a sense of ownership in a new or existing business. Rather than simply distributing partner funds, this approach ensures that CNFA input retailer-grantees are enabled to succeed through their own contributions, better leveraging partner funds and increasing impact.

The Farm Service Center Model was first piloted in Moldova, where, over a period of four years, CNFA established a national, private enterprise-based input distribution system with the establishment of 85 farm service centers. In addition to using matching grants to establish uniformly branded and environmentally compliant centers, CNFA also designed and delivered a modularized education program that trained over 200 FSC managers and staff in accounting, inventory management, marketing, and new agronomic and veterinary technologies. The 85 FSCs created more than 760 new jobs in rural areas and generated over $9 million in sales. As a result of the FSC network, over 1.3 million Moldovan farmers improved their production and increased their incomes by 15-20%.

Following the success in Moldova, CNFA then worked to address the Republic of Georgia’s severe shortage of agricultural machinery using the FSC’s commercially-sustainable, market-oriented methodology to offer a wide range of on-farm machinery services. Using a combination of matching grants, commercial finance, business and extension training and volunteer technical assistance, CNFA established 21 Machinery Service Centers (MSCs) that were equipped with tractors and a range of implements such as plows, cultivators, seeders, fertilizer spreaders, sprayers and trailers. These MSCs were then able to provide fee-based custom machinery services in addition to the sale of on-farm inputs. This initiative created 195 new rural-based jobs, generated more than $425,000 in net income for the MSC enterprises; provided machinery services to over 30,000 hectares of land which generated over $1.8 million in incremental sales revenue for assisted farmers and resulted in a 51% increase in farmer annual income.

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