AIMS promotes private sector investment in agro-inputs (fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products) and marketing outputs in Mozambique’s Beira and Nacala corridors. The project is improving farmers’ access to agro-inputs through more competitive markets and improved agro-dealer networks. AIMS is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by IFDC. The first phase of the project ended in September 2009. The second phase (October 2009-2012) continued to strengthen the private input sector and create demand for agro-inputs through market development and the introduction of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM). Entering its third phase in October 2012, AIMS is strengthening private sector capacities to develop viable agro-input and output markets. AIMS is also strengthening the capacities of public sector partners to develop and transfer best practices for Commercialized Sustainable Farming Systems (CSFS), including conservation agriculture, that will improve smallholder farmer profitability.
AIMS is part of the Platform for Agricultural Research and Technology Innovation (PARTI) together with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers, the Government of Mozambique (GoM) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Agency (EMBRAPA). The project’s implementation strategy also aligns with the GoM’s Action Plan for Food Production (PAPA).
Among the AIMS project’s main objectives is the continued contribution to Mozambique’s participation in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) goal to achieve 6 percent annual growth in agricultural output. AIMS also seeks to provide better access, availability and incentives to use fertilizer and other agro-inputs, in keeping with the goals of the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for an African Green Revolution.
AIMS project activities are grouped into the following major components:
Transfer of Soil Fertility Management Technologies
Because of the inherently low soil fertility levels in Mozambique, AIMS is promoting farmers’ adoption of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM), the combined use of mineral fertilizers and locally available organic amendments (crop residues, compost and green manure) to replenish lost soil nutrients. ISFM improves both soil quality and the efficiency of fertilizers and other inputs. AIMS is training agro-dealers and extension agents in ISFM techniques and other improved agricultural practices so that they can transfer the knowledge to smallholder farmers through demonstration plots and participatory learning activities. A total of 189 agro-dealers and 83 extension agents have received training in ISFM technologies from AIMS since 2010.
AIMS also has established 160 demonstration fields in the Beira and Nacala corridors since 2010. These fields demonstrate the costs and benefits of applying fertilizer at different rates and help farmers evaluate various intercropping systems between maize and legume crops. (Legumes increase the amount of fixed nitrogen in the soil, thus increasing plant nitrogen uptake and improving agricultural productivity.)
Strengthening Input Supply Chain and Development of Agro-Dealers in Rural Areas
Agro-dealers in Mozambique are located primarily in major market towns, making it difficult for smallholder farmers in rural areas to access fertilizers and improved seeds. In most areas, farmers must travel 30 to 40 kilometers to buy agro-inputs and also to market their crops. This discourages farmers from using modern inputs and increasing crop productivity. Before AIMS, agro-dealers’ limited inventories and limited knowledge about improved farming techniques negatively impacted their ability to assist their farmer-customers. AIMS organizes training sessions for agro-dealers on product knowledge and financial and business management. Since 2010, AIMS has trained 300 agro-dealers (182 existing and 118 new dealers) in the Beira and Nacala corridors in an effort to strengthen the corridors’ input supply chains. In addition, AIMS has provided agribusiness training for 80 agro-dealers and financial management training courses for 48 dealers. IFDC staff members regularly follow up with trained dealers to ensure that they are implementing what they have learned. Demonstration plots are established in collaboration with agro-dealers, who are responsible for their maintenance. This transfers responsibility for demand-creation activities to the dealers and encourages them to promote their businesses.
Input Sector Policy Reforms and Regulations
Currently, there are no government-mandated price or marketing controls on agro-inputs in Mozambique. There are no fertilizer laws, nor is there a fertilizer regulatory authority in the country. At this time, the development of agro-input markets is the responsibility of the private sector. Under such conditions, quality assurance and the importation of adulterated, counterfeit, improper and/or uneconomical fertilizer products cannot be monitored. Due to inadequate product knowledge, agro-dealers and farmers often buy products that result in inefficiencies and low yields. Therefore, an enabling and supportive policy environment for private sector development is essential. IFDC projects in Mozambique are counseling the government in its efforts to pass appropriate legislation and establish a fertilizer authority to enforce the legislation.
Strengthening Market Information Systems (MIS)
Reliable information on agro-input availability and prices at the market level are often unavailable for agro-dealers and farmers. The Mozambique Ministry of Agriculture’s (MINAG) System of Information of Agricultural Marketing (SIMA) provides some information on the prices of harvested crops but not on agro-inputs. Access to timely and reliable market information on the availability and prices of agro-inputs and crop produce would greatly contribute to confidence and transparency in the input marketing system.
In one particular 2010 effort to address this issue, IFDC staff organized a workshop on MIS in collaboration with AMITSA staff. AMITSA is a web- and mobile telephone-based MIS focused on agro-inputs for eastern and southern Africa. The objectives of the workshop were to assess the MIS environment in the region, define ways to collaborate with ongoing initiatives (such as SIMA) and further promote AMITSA. Eight agro-dealers attended the training on TIC (ESOKO) technology, and eight dealers received mobile phones in order to collect information on prices and agro-inputs. They now contribute to the AMITSA platform.
Strengthening Agro-Dealer Trade Associations
Associations give members the opportunity to pool demand, reduce costs through joint procurement, organize internal and external training sessions and advocate more effectively for a favorable policy environment. During training sessions, AIMS encourages agro-dealers to join district-level associations, which are linked to the Association of Mozambican Agricultural Input Suppliers (AMPIA). AMPIA was created in 2008 under the first phase of AIMS. Since then, IFDC projects in Mozambique have worked closely with AMPIA. Twenty-four members of district-level associations have been trained in trade association management since 2010.
Fertilizer and Seed Voucher System for Poor Farmers
Fertilizer and seed vouchers provide incentives to invest in modern inputs and provide farmers with purchasing power support. Short-term incentives are essential in Mozambique because farmers are not yet accustomed to using improved technologies and are unwilling to purchase agro-inputs without first experiencing the benefits of their use.
A two-year input voucher pilot program began in September 2009 in collaboration with the European Union, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the GoM. IFDC staff in Mozambique helped select and train agro-dealers and negotiated prices between importers and blenders, transporters, wholesalers and suppliers. During the second season of funding, over 20,000 vouchers were distributed and redeemed for fertilizer to use on maize and rice crops. Approximately 25,000 farmers have benefited from the voucher program since 2010, with approximately 2,500 metric tons (mt) of inputs and 1,187.5 mt of seed distributed.
AIMS activities are implemented in collaboration with the following IFDC projects: Maize Intensification in Mozambique (MIM), Mozambique Agro-Dealer Development (MADD), Savings, Subsidies and Sustainable Food Security (BASIS) and the FAO-Mozambique Input Voucher Program. AIMS and MADD also collaborate with the World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress projects (P4P) to make inputs more accessible to farmers and to organize procurement of farmers’ produce in a structured manner through agro-dealer networks and AMPIA.
AIMS Progress (June 2011-Present)
- Trained agro-dealers were linked with suppliers and financial institutions during ‘business linkage meetings’ organized after the completion of training sessions.
- One focus was on the demonstration and transfer of ISFM technology. Numerous ISFM demonstrations and field days were implemented in both the Beira and Nacala corridors. The project established 160 demonstration fields in the Beira and Nacala corridors in 2011 and 2012.
- In the Beira Corridor, AIMS conducted four workshops on district-level business management, involving 51 agro-dealers. Four new agro-dealer district trade associations have been registered with the assistance of IFDC, and 24 executive district association members have received training in trade association management.
- Project staff members trained 74 new and 116 existing agro-dealers in total in the Beira and Nacala corridors in 2011 and 2012.
- Trainings of agro-dealers in the use of AMITSA continued. Links with the mobile phone platform ESOKO have been established, and eight additional agro-dealers received training and mobile phones for AMITSA agro-input price collection and information. Price data from AMITSA will be included in government price bulletins.
- AIMS continued to support the second season of the pilot Input Voucher Program, implemented in collaboration with FAO and the EU. AIMS trained 162 agro-dealers in this field, reaching approximately 25,000 beneficiaries and distributing approximately 1,187.5 mt of maize and rice seed. Funds were used to design the program and provide coordination during implementation.
Past Highlights (July 2010-June 2011)
- The process of legalization of district agro-dealer associations continued. Twelve associations now have full legal status. This enables these associations to open bank accounts and perform joint transactions on behalf of their members. Each district association has, on average, 12-15 members.
- Trainings of agro-dealers in the use of AMITSA continued. About 15 agro-dealers provide price data to AMITSA on a monthly basis. Links with the mobile phone platform ESOKO have been established.
- An agro-dealer assessment was carried out in July and August 2010 in collaboration with the MADD project.
- Several agro-dealer training sessions were conducted in both the Beira and Nacala corridors. A total of 65 dealers were trained during this period.
- Trained dealers were linked with suppliers and financial institutions during ‘business linkage meetings’ organized upon completion of the training sessions.
- A meeting with agro-dealers, the AMITSA team and MINAG was organized in November 2010. This meeting strengthened the involvement of Mozambican dealers in delivering price information. Fifteen agro-dealers were trained to provide monthly input price data for the market information system, AMITSA, which is linked to the ESOKO platform.
- Links were made with government initiatives to jointly produce price bulletins with the national market information system that focuses on output prices. Price data from AMITSA will be included in these government price bulletins.
- A policy workshop was organized in November 2010 in collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and NEPAD. The workshop focused on fertilizer and seed policies in Mozambique.
- IFDC led the establishment of a Soil Fertility Working Group that brought together the platform partners, government institutes and other stakeholders to jointly discuss and address soil fertility issues in Mozambique.
- AIMS contributed to the second season of the pilot Input Voucher Program that is implemented in collaboration with FAO and the EU. Funds were used to design the program and provide coordination during implementation.