High-income seeds: Community-based farming

Smallholder farmers are receiving tailored training and financial advice from a social enterprise that guarantees them a good market price for their seed. Expanding to work with over 5,000 small-scale farmers, the company is training a cohort of extension workers to help farmers profit from the international seed industry.

Good Nature Agro provides one trained extension agent for every 40 of their farmers to help increase seed yields and incomes © Good Nature Agro/Amie Fletcher

A community out-grower approach to seed production and marketing in Zambia is facilitating smallholder farmers’ access to the lucrative and high-impact market of legume seeds. To help smallholders tap into the seed market, 5,200 farmers are receiving a personalised bundle of services to grow quality seed to then sell under the brand, Good Nature Seeds.

A social enterprise operating in eastern Zambia, Good Nature Agro, identified seed as a missing link in the legume value chain and saw an opportunity for smallholder farmers to fill this void. As seeds are traditionally difficult to grow and expensive to buy, smallholder farmers have, until now, been excluded from the multi-billion euro seed industry that is dominated by multi-national interests.

The initiative’s holistic model is providing farmers with three key services that are generally hard to access: personalised financing for inputs, reliable information, and a profitable market. The company coordinates farmers’ access to one trained extension agent for every 40 growers, customised advice on inputs and financing, and a guaranteed market through their commitment to buy the produce.

“We know that the challenge of increasing smallholder farmers’ yields and incomes is essentially limitless in scale, but that doesn’t mean that we need one-size-fits-all solutions,” says Carl Jensen, co-founder and CEO of Good Nature Agro. “Farmers deserve a business partner that supports their individual goals and who is willing to customise a path that helps farmers achieve them. That is what we do differently.”

Samson Tembo of Chikwanda village in eastern Zambia is among those already benefitting from the approach. The 37-year old is expecting to earn over €760 from the 1,275 kg of cowpea he harvested in early 2017. “Last year, I bought two cattle, six bags of fertiliser and paid all school fees for my children. My plan this year is to extend my iron roofed house,” states Tembo.

By the end of the 2018-19 season Good Nature Agro aims to have 50,000 farmers growing for them, supported by around 1,000 agents.

Friday Phiri

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.