Farm Business Advisors address food security in Zambia
Juddy Mukumbi was born to a Zambian mother and an Angolan father in the Meheba refugee camp in 1974 and has never lived anywhere else. Although the camp has seen a population decline from 40,000 in 2012 to 14,000 today, most of the remaining population like Juddy consider Zambia, and Meheba, home. The Zambian government has recognized this and is encouraging the formation of agricultural cooperatives and soliciting support from microfinance institutions to ensure that people in Meheba gain the farming knowledge and skills necessary to become self-sufficient.
iDE extended its Farm Business Advisor (FBA) model to Meheba through a six-month project in 2015 with support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The Enterprise for Agricultural Resilience Through Horticulture (EARTH) project established a network of FBAs—small-scale, independent entrepreneurs who support client farmers—to extend agricultural products and services to the Meheba refugee community. iDE does not pay FBAs, but gives them free training and advice, as well as helping them link to suppliers and microfinance. FBAs earn commissions or fees based on the products and services they provide.
Refugees like Juddy Mukumbi struggle to have enough food, especially as international aid for Angolan refugees has dwindled following repatriation activities. Juddy is married and has six children, and she and her husband cultivated their farm together until Juddy learned about the possibility of making extra money from a home vegetable garden, through an event facilitated by John Muta, an iDE FBA.
John joined iDE as an FBA in 2014. He serves more than 25 small-scale farmers in the Meheba area. He focuses on engaging with the primary female in these households whenever possible because they are largely responsible for household vegetable gardening, and also can commit the time to learn how to produce vegetables for the market. Juddy attended John’s training sessions and was able to produce a crop of tomato, cabbage, and rape in 2015, which she took to a market in Solwezi to sell for a good profit.
With the extra income gained from her garden plot, Juddy has already been able to purchase a sprayer and some new cooking pots. She plans to use some of the income to purchase vegetables from nearby producers to resell at a profit at the market in Solwezi where she sells her own produce. Juddy has recently been working with John to acquire a loan through VisionFund in order to obtain improved seeds and other inputs for her garden plot. She is saving money to purchase a television for her family, so that her children do not have to go to a neighbor’s house to watch TV.
The success of the FBA approach lies in the fact that it is scalable and sustainable, lasting long after iDE’s project comes to an end. Because FBAs make money from supporting farm clients, they have a strong incentive to continue to do so—project or no project.
Business performance metrics
- Since October 2014, FBAs in Zambia have sold a total of ZMW 4,345,376 (~$550,000) worth of inputs (e.g., seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) and equipment to smallholder farmers, most of whom were in the last mile.
- On the output side, FBAs have earned more than ZMW 149,079 (~$18,000) in commission from crop aggregation, both horticultural and commodity crops such as maize and soya.
- Overall sales, including sales of inputs, equipment, facilitation of credit, services, and output sales, have reached over ZMW 8,644,960 (~$1 million) since the market-development focus started in October 2014.
- iDE has already reached over 18,000 small-scale farmers in Zambia, by training and inspiring FBAs to transform their own communities by distributing farm knowledge and technology along the last mile.