Written January 2012
Ms. Gloriose Musanabandi, who is 25 years old, started an agro-dealer shop in March 2008 in Gasogi, a village in the Ndera sector of Gasabo District. The village is 10 kilometers outside of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.
Like most modern agro-dealers, Gloriose sells a variety of quality fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Ms. Gloriose Musanabandi in her agro-dealer shop in Gasogi village in Rwanda. Her annual sales are estimated at 15,000,000 Rwandan Francs (US $25,000). She keeps detailed records of her customers and their purchases on a daily basis.
To grow her business, Gloriose rented a one-tenth hectare (ha) plot at the roadside next to her shop in order to demonstrate the benefits of fertilizers. She received technical support from IFDC’s Rwanda Agro-Dealer Development (RADD) project, which is funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’s (AGRA) Soil Health Program. The maize demonstration plot was divided into two areas. One area was used as a control (on which no agro-inputs were used) while the other area was given proper fertilizer applications (diammonium phosphate [DAP] and urea at 100 kg and 50 kg per ha, respectively).
The impact on the December 2011 crop was dramatic. The crop grown in the control plot, which was not fertilized, showed high nitrogen (N) deficiencies and overall poor growth. The fertilized crop grew extremely well, with no symptoms of nutrient deficiencies as demonstrated in the control (Fig. 2). Soil analysis for this region of Rwanda indicates that soils are generally deficient in N and available soil phosphorus (P). These deficiencies were countered with the application of DAP and urea to the fertilized maize crop.
Fig. 2. Ms. Gloriose Musanabandi (in white overcoat) with a local agronomist showing her demonstration plot. The fertilized maize crop can be seen at the right of the photo. The unfertilized maize crop is on the left.
Farmers passing by the demonstration plot were impressed by the results and now frequently visit Gloriose’s shop for advice and supplies. During the 2011-A growing season (September 2011 through January 2012), Gloriose sold 5.25 metric tons (mt) of fertilizers (3 mt of DAP, 1.75 mt of urea 46% and 0.5 tons of NPK 17-17-17) to 88 farmers. The farmers applied the fertilizers to about 37 ha. Their crops were healthy and strong, and would ultimately yield about 3.5-4.0 mt per ha (mt/ha) – double the typical yield without fertilizers. The monetary value of these increased yields is estimated at US $800 per ha.
In addition to Gloriose, the RADD project has trained 1,062 agro-dealers in 30 districts of Rwanda. Together, these dealers serve about 800,000 farmers and supplied 39,935 mt of fertilizers in 2011. Because of an increase in rural agro-dealer locations, the distance farmers must travel to purchase agro-inputs is now 8-20 km. The agro-dealers have also planted 377 demonstration plots, just as Gloriose has done for the second year, and are providing valuable training on the importance of fertilizer use to smallholder farmers in their respective areas. It is estimated that 60,000 farmers farming 42,000 ha have benefited from these demonstrations.
Additionally, the agro-dealer shops of Gloriose and fellow dealers/stockists across the country have helped the government to implement a ‘smart input subsidy’ program, which would not have been possible without the participation of the agro-dealers. Subsidized fertilizer is bought by smallholder farmers at 50 percent of market price using vouchers provided by the government. The vouchers can only be redeemed for use on maize and wheat crops. Thanks to these agro-dealers, farmers are also buying fertilizers for other crops such as climbing beans, an important crop in the highlands of Rwanda.
The agro-dealer-operated demonstrations are geo-referenced using a global positioning satellite (GPS), and their soil characteristics are being monitored from the beginning and over time. The emerging data (crop yields, fertilizer volumes sold and soil characteristics) will be published in the near future by RADD, an effort organized by the project’s leader, Jean-Bosco Safari. The data will also be supplied to a national fertilizer recommendation project that is funded by AGRA’s Soil Health Program and implemented by the Rwanda Agricultural Board.
RADD has had an important impact on stockists such as Gloriose and is contributing to Rwanda’s Green Revolution through its Crop Intensification Program (CIP). As it enters its final year in 2012, RADD aims to intensify its monitoring systems and improve access to financing for agro-dealers from local banks and micro-finance institutions. Access to affordable credit is a major challenge for the agro-dealers. The access to affordable credit will allow those who have been trained to establish their own businesses, and like Gloriose, become agents of change in their rural communities.