More than 60 percent of the population in eastern and southern Africa is undernourished. Moreover, the prices of staple foods doubled during 2007-08 and continue to rise, threatening food security for over 250 million people in the region (and over one billion worldwide). The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) works to alleviate poverty by promoting regional agricultural integration and removing trade and investment barriers. COMESA is a regional economic community (REC) comprised of 19 African states: Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
COMESA’s Regional Agricultural Inputs Program (COMRAP) responded to rising food prices by increasing agricultural productivity through improved access to finance, fertilizer and seeds. COMRAP was a two-year project (2010-2011) implemented by the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) and funded by the European Union Food Facility Program.
Over the course of its implementation, the project targeted about three million smallholder farmers in Burundi, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This represented 10 to 15 percent of smallholder farmers in each country.
The following results were achieved through project efforts:
- Financial services were improved.
- Agro-dealer networks were strengthened or established and the output trade for key value chains was supported.
- Commodity value chains for seed and plant material were supported.
As a facilitating partner in the project, IFDC implemented the agro-dealer development component of COMRAP, which involved the training of 5,760 agro-dealers and 2,000 agro-dealer agents in agro-input supply, business management and extension services. IFDC implemented this component in association with the Agricultural Market Development Trust (AGMARK). As agro-dealers play a crucial role in the delivery of inputs to farmers, this effort played a critical role in the success of the project.
IFDC, in collaboration with farmer organizations, conducted baseline surveys on agro-input distribution, fertilizer and seed use, and identified agro-dealers for project participation. In addition, IFDC provided assistance by conducting training needs assessments, developing curricula and holding courses for selected agro-dealers. After completing six months of training, trainees received agro-dealer certification. Follow-up courses were then held on agricultural extension and marketing.
Networks of agro-dealers in eight countries were trained and certified. These networks are facilitating agro-dealers’ access to financial services, strengthening their ability to deliver more inputs in a timely manner and improving the quality of the technical advice they provide to farmers. This effort will ultimately stimulate smallholder farmers’ demand for improved agro-inputs and facilitate the marketing of their surplus production.
COMRAP Agro-Dealer Development Progress (January-June 2011)
In-country agro-dealer and agent trainings: The in-country agro-dealer/agent training workshops, which began in October/November 2010, continued throughout January-June 2011. Rwanda and Burundi joined Malawi, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe by beginning in-country trainings in January and February 2011, respectively.
Summary of agro-dealer/agent trainings to date: During October-December 2010, a total of 1,357 (556 women) agro-dealers and agents were trained across five countries: Malawi, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Between January and June 2011, 5,369 agro-dealers and agents were trained.
As of June 2011, a total of 5,126 agro-dealers and 1,600 agents, out of a project target of 7,800, had been trained across eight COMESA countries. Of the total agro-dealers/agents trained, 2,253 were women.
Back-up support/quality assurance in agro-dealer/agent trainings: IFDC and AGMARK staff provided support to the agro-dealer/agent trainings across eight countries. During January-June 2011, IFDC/AGMARK staff developed 83 trip reports. The reports provided feedback used to continuously improve trainings and defined consistent standards of training among partners.
Accreditation and Association Building: IFDC presented the draft accreditation strategy, Roadmap to Accreditation, to ACTESA at the 2nd National Coordinators Meeting in Nairobi. The meeting provided an opportunity for IFDC to validate the strategy and clarify the roles of the different actors in the accreditation process. Following the meeting, IFDC/AGMARK developed a work plan and budget for accreditation and submitted it to ACTESA for approval.
In Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, regional agro-dealer associations were registered. In Uganda, agro-dealers not previously registered as members of the existing Uganda National Agro-Input Dealers Association (UNADA), which has both regional and national structures, were encouraged to join the association.
Monitoring and Evaluation: In-person backup support and an observations system were applied and trip reports were developed. Milestones, deliverables and achievements (outputs) were monitored through the performance-monitoring matrix (PPM), which maintained a summary of trained agro-dealers and agents. For outcome level indicators, the pre-training assessment form and training evaluation questionnaire were completed and entered into a database housed on the ACTESA server. As of April 2011, 2,261 assessment forms and 403 questionnaires were uploaded to the ACTESA mainframe database.
- 2nd COMRAP National Coordinators meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, January 2011.
- 7th National Fertilizer Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, February 2011.
- Official Launch of AMITSA (Regional Agricultural Input Market Information and Transparency System), Nairobi, Kenya, May 2011.
- AMITSA training workshop on the use of E-soko and Mobi, Nairobi, Kenya, May 2011.
Past Highlights (July-December 2010)
Baseline survey and report: To better tailor training activities and projections to unique conditions in each country, IFDC carried out a baseline survey in the eight COMRAP countries and came up with a baseline report that identified the training gaps/needs and helped set targets in each country.
Agro-dealer/Agent training curriculum: Based on the completed baseline survey, IFDC/AGMARK developed an agro-dealer/agent curriculum and training materials for use in conducting training in eight COMRAP countries.
Validation of training curriculum: The training curriculum and materials were validated during the first planning meeting of the partners involved in the implementation of COMRAP, held in July 2010, in Lusaka, Zambia.
Identification and contracting of partners: IFDC identified and signed contracts for the implementation of the agro-dealer development component of COMRAP with five host country partners. The primary role of the host institution partnerships is to work closely with IFDC and AGMARK in identifying trainers, facilitating training events, liaising with the national coordinators in the respective countries and overseeing and maintaining the accreditation of agro-dealers.
Training of Trainers’ (ToT) Workshops: A total of 114 (32 women) trainers from eight COMRAP countries were trained during four ToT workshops. The aim of the ToTs was to impart product knowledge about fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products. Skills in business management and output marketing were also taught to both men and women, who will in turn train agro-dealers and agro-dealer agents in their respective countries.
Development of country work plans and budgets: Provided support to host partner institutions in the development of respective national plans and budgets, including collaboration with ACTESA.
Quality Assurance: Developed and implemented a mechanism for in-country agro-dealer/agent training backup support and quality assurance, ensuring that the quality of in-country trainings is maintained.
Monitoring and Evaluation: In collaboration with ACTESA, developed a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework for COMRAP. For monitoring outcomes, a series of three questionnaires were administered to training participants. By assessing the status of key indicators at agro-dealers’ first exposure to the program and comparing it with their position once agro-dealers have integrated training lessons into practice, it is expected that improved business performance trends will emerge.
A data entry consultant was contracted to upload the full information from the training applications into an Access database on ACTESA’s mainframe. The result will be a database containing detailed contact information on all agro-dealers trained by IFDC in seven or more countries. This will include information about their operations, sales and challenges in doing business. The expectation is that this agro-dealer information can be uploaded and integrated into AMITSA to enhance the web-based portal’s data for each country.
Photo Captions and Credits:
Left Photo: Misper Enterprises Fertilizer Warehouse in Ndola, Zambia, owned by Nelson Mutakila, an IFDC-trained agro-dealer.
Center Photo: Vivien Mthetwa, one of COMRAP's agro-dealer trainers, outside Misper Enterprises in Ndola, Zambia.
Right Photo: Agro-dealer agents in a group discussion session during the Agents' Training held at Dzimbahwe Lodge in Goromondzi, Zimbabwe, on July 8-10, 2011.
COMRAP Project Summary
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Over 4,500 Agro-Dealers Trained Through COMRAP Project
New Agro-Dealer Development Project: COMESA Regional Agricultural Inputs Program (COMRAP) (Taken from IFDC Report Volume 35, No.3)
ACTESA Newsletter Articles
The following articles appeared in ACTESA's Newsletter. COMRAP is implemented by ACTESA, a specialized agency of COMESA.
September 26, 2011 ACTESA Newsletter Article
November 1, 2010 ACTESA Newsletter Article
September 30, 2010 ACTESA Newsletter Article
September 17, 2010 ACTESA Newsletter Article
IFDC-AGMARK Agro-Dealer Training for COMESA