iDE Global

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.

Business Planning

In years past, farmers in Inutu Musiyalela’s rural Zambian community had to travel 25 miles to buy tools and seeds, and then had to come back again to sell what they had grown. This was both expensive and time consuming. Sensing an opportunity—and willing to disrupt traditional gender roles—Musiyalela developed a business plan and qualified as a farm business advisor. She is now a crop aggregator, serving about 3,000 farmers, selling their produce in bulk, allowing farmers to work their fields rather than travel. Having created a strong market link, Musiyalela has earned more than $844 in profit in each of the last three harvesting seasons, enabling her to invest in her growing business. 

iDE PC ZAM Inutu Musiyalela Callout 3X2

Inutu Musiyalela, Zambia

Preventing Loss

Most Nazilongo farmers in Zambia had been unable to access good quality inputs and crop marketing services until Beatrice Sodala became a Farm Business Advisor. Even after Beatrice began to support them, they continued to experience high post-harvest losses. Then she introduced hermetic storage bags to store grain and prolong its quality. In the first harvest after their introduction, the 452 bags sold were estimated to have saved approximately ZMW 85,880 from being lost due to poor storage mechanisms. Beatrice loves the bags, but wants to do more. “iDE, we want you to go beyond what you are doing and link us to even bigger companies,” she said.

iDE PC ZAM Beatrice Sodala Callout 3X2

Beatrice Sodala, Zambia

The Family Business

Amelia Rendicao trained as an FBA in 2018, learning business planning  and Farming as a Family Business. She was able to obtain a KIVA loan to acquire a 4-tonne truck, which she uses to aggregate maize from hard to reach areas. Amélia said, “I am now the greatest aggregator for maize and vegetables in the district. The linkages with other FBAs makes my situation even more conducive for doing my business.” 

iDE PC MOZ Amelia Rendicao Callout 3X2

Amelia Rendicao, Mozambique

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. 

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Buyer-Centered Market Linkages

When demand leads supply, small businesses increase profits

iDE helps producers understand and react to the needs of buyers, creating business plans that help suppliers meet demand and increase incomes for everyone.

Read more: Read more about how we build links between buyers and suppliers