Farm Business Advisors
The cost-efficient, sustainable way to market to farmers in remote locations.
Farm Business Advisors (FBAs) are entrepreneurs who go door-to-door and field-to-field, supporting small-scale farmers to grow crops that can be sold for attractive returns. FBAs provide an essential last-mile market link for farmers located in remote areas far away from commercial centers. By traveling to the farmer’s field, they learn directly what challenges the farmer faces—problems like water control, poor soils, damaging pests, or difficulty getting crops to buyers.
Together, the FBA and the farmer work out a strategy, which might include investing in new equipment like drip irrigation or introducing higher-value crops into their annual agricultural cycle. They sell farmers inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers, drip irrigation kits, and other agricultural tools, earning a commission on each sale. FBAs keep in regular contact with their farmer clients to answer questions, solve problems, and ensure that investments are yielding the expected results.
A flexible way to respond to different environments
iDE developed the Farm Business Advisor strategy in Cambodia and Nepal in the mid-2000s. It has been expanding ever since. Today there are more than 1,500 active FBAs serving clients across nine countries. While the market-based principles are consistent across all countries, the programs are tailored to the unique context of each environment.
A few examples illustrate the diversity and flexibility of the FBA approach.
Two Distinct Management Models
Before launching a new Farm Business Advisor program, iDE conducts a business opportunity assessment to understand the environment and market challenges. This assessment includes interviews with farmers, retailers, customers, and other market actors. The team researches existing supply chains and farmers’ access to these markets.
Social Enterprise Model
If it’s determined that the market either doesn’t exist or is too broken to work within, the team may decide to start a social enterprise: a for-profit company that takes an active role in the value chain.
The dispersed market model may be used where agricultural markets are relatively well-developed and individual firms have the size and capacity to support and make effective use of FBAs. In this model, iDE works with existing market actors that may be found at any point in the value chain.
Over time, the FBA approach requires fewer resources to reach more farmers. When strong linkages have been established, trained FBAs continue to grow their businesses, disseminating knowledge and services to farmers well after the iDE program is complete.