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Rural agro-dealers: A vital link in the agriculture value chain

The transformation of subsistence agriculture in Africa holds tremendous promise for catalysing economic growth and creating employment opportunities. The need for agribusiness development in Zimbabwe is undeniable, especially for its largely rural population.

Rural agro-dealers continue to play a critical role in the agricultural input supply chain by selling both crop and livestock input to farmers. In some communities of Zimbabwe, the agro-dealers also act as agents for buyers of agricultural produce. Sadly, this vital role of the agro-dealer has dwindled over the years, but there is some hope under the Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP)

Under the LFSP, Farm Shop is providing the much needed impetus to scale up the vital role of this agro retail link in the agriculture value chain and has duplicated the rural agro-dealer agency in Makoni and Gokwe South districts. Farm Shop has contracted agents and provided stock on consignment, covering a wide range of agricultural inputs for both crop and livestock production.

The Markets Development Component of the LFSP has conducted a case study to further share the findings of Farm Shop’s progressive success with agro-dealers.

Here is the brief.

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Unblocking Supply of Agricultural Finance in Zimbabwe: A Review of Cases Involving Risk-Mitigating Mechanisms

Access to finance is crucial in facilitating investments in productivity-enhancing technologies among farmers, and for increasing the scale of production. This is expected to contribute to increased incomes and food security in primarily agrarian societies.

However, in Zimbabwe, there exists a substantial financial gap in the agricultural sector. The share of commercial loans to agriculture has declined from 19% in 2012 and currently stands at about 16.7%. This is because of high risks, insufficient funds among financial institutions, the high cost of lending, and lack of formally recognized collateral. If left unresolved, this has potential to perpetuate low farm productivity.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the Managing Agent for the LFSP’s Agricultural Productivity and Nutrition (APN) component. FAO, together with its policy partner Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), have produced a policy brief to illuminate the issues around Unblocking Supply of Agricultural Finance in Zimbabwe.

For further insight into these and more issues access the policy brief, here (PDF).

 

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Policy Brief on Smallholder Productivity and Subsidies – Policy Issues, Opportunities and Recommendations for Zimbabwe

The majority of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe cultivate very small plots, with 40-52 percent cultivating less than 1 hectare (Ha) and 70-75 percent cultivating less than 2Ha. This means any agricultural and food security strategy that does not recognize this structure will likely be ineffective to achieve inclusive and broad-based poverty reduction and agricultural growth.

Increased efficiency in the production of maize is the best means to achieving competitiveness in local and regional maize markets. The current average productivity is too low to achieve this self-sufficiency.
Crops yields, including that for the main staple crop remain too low, with the average for maize around 0.671 tonnes per Ha between 2010 and 2015, rising to about 1.1 tonnes per Ha in 2016/17.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the Managing Agent for the LFSP’s Agricultural Productivity and Nutrition (APN) component. FAO, together with its policy partner Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), have produced a policy brief to illuminate the issues around Smallholder Productivity and Subsidies: Policy Issues, Opportunities and Recommendations for Zimbabwe.

For further insight into these and more issues access the policy brief, here (PDF).

 

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Food Consumption Patterns in Zimbabwe

Rapid urbanization, rural transformation and changes in food consumption patterns can spur demand for agricultural produce from the smallholder farm sector, creating urban-rural linkages expanding markets for various crops and livestock products.

Quality and quantity of food consumed is influenced by many factors that have complex interactions including government policy, knowledge, income, food preferences, economic shocks and culture among other factors.

Understanding changes in food expenditure and consumption patterns can assist in developing policies and strategies that enhance domestic production and value addition.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the Managing Agent for the LFSP’s Agricultural Productivity and Nutrition (APN) component. FAO, together with its policy partner Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), have conducted research to better understand the changes in food expenditure and consumption patterns in Zimbabwe under the context of the LFSP’s operating environment to inform agriculture policy and strategies, enhance domestic production and promote value addition for a healthy population and food consumption base.

The process of gathering consumptive patterns was documented on video and is an interesting and informative watch.

Access the video here

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LFSP beneficiaries share their experiences through Learning Project videos

Group of farmers

The Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) has transcended an important milestone by releasing a series of beneficiary-produced videos through the Learning Project. The name, Learning Project, is self-consciously taken from the BBC Radio 4 programme called the Listening Project, which records conversations between people on any subject and plays back an edited version over the radio several times a week.

Although not exactly tailored to this latter specification, the LFSP’s Learning Project videos provide a first hand narrative of the programme’s beneficiary experiences –undiluted and uncut from beginning to the end. This aspect makes them unique in their formatting content.

An innovative approach to Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation

The approach is experimental and innovative and is, in our view, appropriate as an additional component of the Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation (MR&E) of the LFSP. The Learning Project’s  approach is based on the notion that “it’s surprising what you hear when you listen.” The aim is to enhance existing evaluation activities of LFSP.

Very often, evaluating a development project’s impact is reported by second and third parties, but the Learning Project harnesses the undiluted power of self-reporting that is not very common. In addition, the beneficiaries conduct the filming of themselves carrying out their daily activities in the natural context of the LFSP programming and expressing their experiences with the programme.

Where can we obtain the videos?

The videos will be shared as and when formatting is completed. More information shall be provided on this page. Below are links to 4 of the released videos:

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Sugar bean production factsheet

Sugar bean is one of the value chains promoted by the LFSP because they are a valuable source of protein, enhance the quality of the soil through nitrogen fixation and have a good commercial value for farmers.

The LFSP’s APN component has developed a sugar bean production factsheet to guide farmers and extension staff to grow the crop.

Access the sugar bean production factsheet, here.