CHIPINGE — Agro dealers who were forced out of business here on the back of a hostile economic environment have bounced back courtesy of an International Relief and Development (IRD)’s programme, Restoring Livelihoods — Strengthening Value Chains (Revalue).
An agro-dealer, Joseph Mazengwa — who benefited from the USAID-bankrolled programme — joined the scheme in March last year and became a middleman between beneficiary farmers and their markets.
His warehouse is the collection point for inputs and packaging of the paprika harvested by farmers.
Mazengwa said the programme also injected life into local entrepreneurs’ waning businesses, which had taken a serious knock during the dollarisation process.
“The programme saw a growth in our own sales because when IRD came in, people now had money to buy groceries and other things from our shops,” he said. “My business, for example, grew with between five and 10%.”
The area coordinator, Edward Madewokunze, said IRD played a bridging role in which they linked agro dealers with farmers and financial institutions to enable them access loans.
“The agro-dealers were paid for storage of inputs (seed, fertilisers and chemicals) in their warehouses.
“They also sold merchandise to the farmers,” he said. “The value chains were there but they had just been broken down as in some cases there were no agro-dealers.”
David Chikodzore, who is responsible for the Revalue programme in Manicaland, said the programme was initially meant to run for just 18 months to bridge the gap created by dollarisation.
“There was a gap created by the confusion brought about by dollarisation, especially in the pricing systems. Many agro-dealers were out of business so the chain was broken,” he said.
Agro companies such as Nutresco, he said, went to Zambia and Malawi to buy groundnuts leaving farmers in Buhera and Mutare stranded with no markets.
About 30% of the groundnuts, according to Chikodzore, were afflicted with aflatoxin, which contaminate grain before harvest or during storage. Crops are often susceptible to infection after prolonged exposure to a high humidity environment or damage from stressful conditions such as drought. Local groundnuts however do not have aflatoxin.
“One of our goals in this programme,” Chikodzore said, “was to increase agro-dealer involvement as most of them were completely out of stock following the adoption of the multi-currency system.”
Agro-dealers were paid between $800 and $1 000 depending on the range of distribution and IRD engaged companies such as Agricura, Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company, Windwill and SeedCo to work with the agro-dealers as well as banks including First Banking Corporation, MicroKing (Kingdom Bank) and Metropolitan Bank to support the farmers.
Following the success of the programme, Chikodzore said some banks were now availing as much as between $200 000 and $500 000 to big agro-dealers, depending on the latter’s securities.
IRD is a global non-governmental organisation responsible for implementing relief, stabilisation and development programmes and improving lives of the world’s most vulnerable groups.