Zimbabwe: Agent Program

The Zimbabwe AGENT programme was initiated in 1995 with the objective of increasing the access of small scale farmers to inputs by establishing a network of rural traders selling agricultural inputs. Typically the agents were village retailers nominated by the communities themselves. An NGO provided training to the agents on input handling, marketing finance and book-keeping and acted as an intermediary for channelling orders to wholesale suppliers and negotiating prices and terms. By consolidating the orders from all the agents, the NGO arranges bulk purchases and delivery and underwrites 75% of the 30-60 day credit supplied by the wholesalers to the retail agents.

After two years of good performance in terms of stock and credit management, the agents graduate and deal directly with the suppliers with no further involvement from the NGO. By late 2001, 580 agents had been trained and were operating independently. Small scale farmers using these agents now have access to an increased variety of cheaper inputs, including tools, irrigation and processing equipment. Agents are also able to give advice on the appropriate selection and use of inputs.

This programme has demonstrated a successful strategy for facilitating the growth of small scale businesses to meet the needs of farmers for agricultural inputs. It is a potential win-win situation with both farmers and retailers experiencing a growth in income as long as prices can be negotiated and set without government intervention. The NGO involvement is strictly limited and time bound, helping to ensure the growth of viable private sector activities. There is no information in the note as to whether the retail agents sell any goods on credit to their farmer customers.

Related Resources