Mutinta Mwiinga is one of many farmers to have increased their incomes by also becoming a local retailer of sowing seed and crop protection products. The organisation Musika creates contacts between companies and small-scale farmers, making it easier for the companies to invest in rural areas and help the farmers to reach out into a market.
“Since I became a retailer in this area, I’ve had a much better financial situation. I have invested in my own land, bought a car and can pay for my children's education without any problems,” says Mutinta Mwiinga, showing us around her farm, where she has been able to pay workers to help with this year's harvest.
She is one of more than 2,000 farmers helped by the organisation MUSIKA to become an agent, or be strengthened in this role, and to earn money by selling sowing seed, fertiliser and crop protection products to other farmers in the local area. The companies deliver the goods to a container in the courtyard that serves as shop premises. This cooperation not only benefits the farmers, who avoid having to travel 20 kilometres on poor mud roads to the village Mukonchi, or to pay SEK 25 to transport a sack of sowing seed as most of them do not have their own car. For the sowing seed companies, it is also a way of reaching out into new markets that they would not normally invest in.
“A company like Seed Co wants a security for daring to invest in rural areas and reach out to poor farmers. Musika has provided this security for the companies and they had the confidence to invest in me and let me to become a retailer. It has really changed my life.
Mutinta spends the majority of her time on her own farm, where she grows maize, groundnuts and soya beans, and keeps chickens, goats and cattle. But, financially, the time she spends on her business activities is more profitable.
“Musika has also taught me a lot on business management; about finances, marketing, ordering and stocking, which I've benefited greatly from.
Motivating agricultural companies to invest in small farmers
A goal of the organisation Musika is to use various innovative ways to reduce the distance between market and small farmers by motivating agricultural companies to invest in the rural poor. This might involve selling products to farmers or buying up their harvests. This is important in a country where 80 per cent of all farmers are small-scale and where poverty and malnutrition is a major problem in rural areas. With a local agent, it is also easier to bring in new kinds of crops. Musika wants to get more people to grow crops other than maize, as corn neither yields a good income nor a high nutritional value.
“What I earn most from at the moment is selling groundnuts to the company New Rotation Zambia. First I buy up from the farmers here and store it in the shed until the buyers come. My next project is to build larger premises to store the groundnuts in,” says Mutinta.
She shows us a large cement slab cast in the courtyard, which will be the floor of the new warehouse. Part of the building will also be an office in order to better manage accounting and other administration.
Access to a structured and secure market for selling groundnuts is a major challenge for growers in Zambia. Mutinta has noticed that the farmers who sell to her appreciate the initiative, and the harvest becomes an important source of income for them when it is sold at a better price. This is especially true for the women who constitute 38 per cent of the country's groundnut growers, according to Musika.
Like the entrepreneur she is, Mutinta is constantly looking for new ways to develop her activities, and she also wants to help more women farmers to begin growing crops that they themselves will sell.
“I now plan to recruit three women who can also start selling seed. These women don’t have money to buy their own sowing seed and start growing their own crops, but they are dependent on their husbands. If I can empower these women, they in turn can empower other women.”