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Healing Markets

Market facilitation in Zambia


In Zambia, the major food crop and staple grown by small-scale farmers is maize. But maize doesn’t return enough profit for farmers to earn an adequate income. Zambia was a market in need of intervention.

We developed a network of Farm Business Advisors (FBAs) who go from one remote village to another, promoting the growth of high-value cash crops (such as soya beans). iDE-trained FBAs improved access to seeds, introduced technology that increases crop yields, and connected farmers to buyers for these new crops. The Zambia investment mobilized farmers to form production groups, which the FBAs support with informational exchanges, trainings, agriculture fairs, and field days.

Charles Shamabenga was already a well-known farmer in his community, but in June 2015 he joined iDE’s Farm Business Advisor program. He now has 244 clients, has opened an agro shop and grocery store, and uses his farm as a demonstration plot for his clients and neighbors. He teaches his clients to grow high-value vegetables that provide additional sources of both nutrition and income.

iDE PC Market Facilitation Extended Caption

(Photo by Chris Nicoletti/iDE)

Market facilitation is an approach we use to develop markets that are both inclusive of the poor and able to sustain and grow independently of iDE’s support. To begin this healing process, iDE considers the entire market system. Recognizing the interdependence of various actors, we intervene at many different levels, including:

  • Build the capacity of the private sector, including training small producers in basic business practices
  • Mitigate corporate risk through market research and development
  • Increase the flow of market information, including information about weather and commodity price fluctuations
  • Work with financial institutions to increase access to affordable loans
  • Work with the local government to promote policy changes favorable to business and agriculture
  • Introduce new or adaptive technology
  • Build relationships and strengthen business connections at critical points on the value chain
  • Phase out as these relationships strengthen

We influence the actors in the market system that are profit-driven—companies, dealers, service providers, and farmers all experience increased revenues. Ultimately, our work is focused on improving the lives of a specific target group.

“If more farmers are doing well like me, we can grow together and solve community problems such as food insecurity, malnutrition, and even theft,” said Fabian Amilli (on the left), a Farm Business Advisor in Zambia.

It takes some encouragement, but rural households are diversifying and earning more. The average crop revenue for the adopting households has increased 93 percent from 2013 to 2015. Interestingly, the largest increase in revenue came from sales of indigenous vegetables (pumpkin leaves, amaranth, sweet potato leaves) that had previously just been grown for home consumption. As these vegetables are cheaper to grow—seeds are readily available and they require less water—they had a superb return on investment.

The vegetables are meeting the nutrition needs of Zambian communities, and the newly diversified markets are actively growing and healthy.

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