Farm Business Advisors
For over two decades, iDE has refined the methodology of creating networks of entrepreneurs who travel to the most rural locations to ensure that farmers have the needed inputs, technologies, training, and market information.
Selecting and training hundreds of independent entrepreneurs who each support between 80 and 120 farmers, iDE's Farm Business Advisor (FBA) networks consist of over 3,500 active participants, supplementing government extension systems in a sustainable model that has already increased incomes and production of 600,000 farmers.
Under iDE's Infinite model, FBAs provide an essential last-mile link between agricultural input suppliers and farmers located in remote areas far from commercial centers. Not only do the FBAs deliver needed supplies, they also establish a link to iDE's Model Farms and Gardens so that farmers can discover how to increase production by visiting demonstration plots and engaging in training activities. Finally, FBAs are an essential part of iDE's approach to create hubs of resilience where farmers group together to coordinate farm production and collective sales.
Naturally risk-averse smallholder farmers need a trusted expert to help them to accept changes to their farming practices. FBAs help farmers analyze their production and match any constraints with inputs (e.g., improved seeds, irrigation suppliers, pumps) that are cost-appropriate. Since FBAs earn money from commission, they have an incentive to make sales (for example, agents could sell lots of pesticides that provide short-term gains, but cause problems in the long-term), but because the FBAs are long-term members of the community and their reputation is built by word-of-mouth, they have an even bigger incentive to ensure what they sell delivers a return on investment.