Agriculture for Entrepreneurs
Transforming small farms into small businesses
Big businesses think that small farmers aren’t worth investing in because they’re too poor and hard to reach. But we’re proving that theory wrong. For decades, iDE has shown that any farm—no matter how small—can move from subsistence farming to commercial farming, if it has the right support. And because women and other marginalized groups make up a majority of the world’s small farmers, providing that support has become a matter of justice and equality.
On average, the farmers we work with see an annual income gain of 30-50%. To our donors, we promise a minimum cost-effectiveness ratio of 10:1. That means that every dollar invested in iDE results in at least an additional $10 of annual income for a farmer. We are able to do this through innovative programs that create cadres of microentrepreneurs, support small businesses, and build resilient markets that support their sales sustainably, helping to prevent farmers from sliding back into extreme poverty.
It’s not just about dropping off a water pump or an irrigation system. Technology won’t work in a vacuum. Farmers need a combination of technology with the services that complement it: knowledge, credit, inputs, and markets where they can find steady paying customers.
We strive for a continuous positive feedback loop by combining user insights, product innovation, and business model design all in one intervention model that’s not supported separately, but all at once. This gives us the ability to spot business opportunities at different layers of the value chain. It takes this kind of holistic approach, and a business mindset, to establish a self-sustaining market for poor farmers.
We work closely with local entrepreneurs, or help locals establish new businesses if there are none present, to manufacture, supply, and service the equipment farmers need. Big businesses don’t want to sell door-to-door or collect smallholder harvests, but we can. Through collection centers and our last mile Farm Business Advisor networks, we create the aggregation necessary for these rural farmers to be a feasible and attractive market.
Our Farm Business Advisors can reach remote farmers and provide them access to the things they want: better seeds, effective pest control, fertilizers, improved soil, and labor- and money-saving technologies such as solar pumps and micro-irrigation. They also learn about efficient agricultural practices as well as business skills such as crop diversity, planting tactics, water storage, post-harvest storage, and market strategies. We teach farmers to form collectives that increase their purchasing power and attract buyers in order to obtain economies of scale (e.g., for things like transport). The collectives coordinate who is producing what commodity, so that everyone doesn’t produce the same thing at the same time, driving down prices.
Check out these publications from our work in Agriculture.
Receive technical and educational updates from iDE
Subscribe and receive Sector Updates that dive deeper into the technical side of iDE’s agriculture work. We’ll share new reports, case studies, and invitations to webinars and conferences we’re attending.