According to the programme coordinator, Chengetai Magadu, the network, established in 2007, links local women farmers and shop owners. In a recent interview Magadu explained that they had engaged fertiliser and seed distribution companies to partner with shopkeepers and help supply the women with inputs and advice.
“There are poor soils in this area, which is one of the major reasons why the women are failing to produce enough food to supply the people in their communities who suffer from hunger and malnutrition,” she said. “Reducing hunger must begin with addressing our severely depleted soils. Improving agriculture is a priority under NEPAD.”
The programme is being run in partnership with the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID), which manages Britain's aid to poor countries like Zimbabwe, and NEPAD – the New Partnership for Africa’s Development – an African Union strategic framework for pan-African socio-economic development. It is both a vision and a policy framework for Africa in the 21st century.
With funding from DFID, the Agro-dealer Network programme has helped shop owners near the farmers to add agricultural products such as fertiliser, seeds, small tools and pesticides to their shelves.
“If farmers do not have supplies, they cannot do anything with their knowledge, so through this programme we seek innovative ways to boost rural incomes by empowering farmers and entrepreneurs,” Magadu said.
“We have found out that the distance the farmers travel to buy seeds, fertilisers and other supplies is a big handicap. We started training storekeepers, giving them the means to procure products so farmers can get what they need at their doorstep and cut down on travel costs and time,” she explained.
The programme has also facilitated credit guarantees for farmers, which are paramount to shop owners who cannot access bank loans.
On a small farming plot not far from her grocery store, Annah Machongwe, a businesswoman is one of a new breed of agro-dealers who not only sell fertilisers, but is certified to advise customers on how to best use them.
“We don’t want them to just buy, but we want them to know the best fertiliser to use for their needs and how to use it. You cannot just use chemicals any way you want. Most are fatal. As trained agro-dealers, we have demonstration plots. Because I help them with some tips for free, the farmers return to buy my supplies. So it is advertising, as well as helping people. We are improving farming methods as well food security and economic welfare. Everybody benefits in the end,” explained Machongwe.
Things are looking up so much that she now employs four people.
“In my shop I now have two cashiers and two men to guard the store. I am confident and enthusiastic about my future,” she said. She also bought a vehicle and has renovated her home, and neighbours say she is hardly recognisable as the same woman who thought her world had come to a standstill seven years ago when her husband died.
Machongwe opened the shop soon after the death of her husband after to help with income to care for her six children. Her hope now is to open at least two more shops.
Agness Chimwaza is one of the farmers who has benefited from the Agro-dealer Network programme. She grows maize, groundnuts and vegetables near Machongwe’s store.
“The soil here is very poor. Without feeding it with fertiliser, you get little out of it. This is why I am happy the store sells everything we need right here in our village. It saves us extra money and time. We do not have to go to the city. With the credit guarantee, shop owners give me fertiliser on credit,” explained Chimwaza.
“In all, l have managed to pay 30, 60 and 90 days credit facilities with DFID as a guarantor. I always pay on time. In the end they gave me even more than what they could guarantee and this has worked wonders for me as I am now producing surplus and selling more to the local community.”
Magadu said the Dora Village Agro-dealer network programme has illustrated one of the actions NEPAD is trying to promote.
“We have seen women improving their incomes. We have seen one of the best agro-dealers which is helping farmers get fertiliser. This is an example of exactly what we are working to achieve all over Zimbabwe,” she said.Post published in: Gender Equality