MALAWI: The case of Tiwonge Rose Harris Investments – Agro dealership Hub Owned by Rosemary Kalua

Rosemary (58), based in Mzuzu, Northern Region of Malawi distributes fertilizers, seeds, chemicals and plans to add hardware stuff to her list. She started around 2010 with a capital of $700 (K500,000) which enabled her order an initial 10 bags of fertilizer. She had one employee only at the time and was involved full time in the day to day running of the business. She says now, she has more than 5 staff and everything runs smoothly even when away. Seed companies discovered the potential in Rose and gave advance supplies to her to sell on their behalf for the initial years. She was getting the seed supply at wholesale and retailing to farmers. She was later connected to AFAP (Maria Wanzala), an implementing partner funded by AGRA through the Agro Dealers Association of Malawi which she belongs to. In the process of working with AFAP, Rose was introduced to AGRA which has helped her appreciate the importance of working with an extension worker who she says she cannot do without now. She started going into the villages to organize groups in 2018 supported by the extension worker who is paid through part of the AGRA funding.

Some of the groups formed were women only and some mixed. The groups became so loyal to her and now there are about 24 of them which save towards purchase of inputs from her annually. Some of the VSLAs/Village Banks deposit money with her much ahead of the start of the agriculture season and the fertilizer gets delivered to them just before the season commences.

Fertilizer is a very important input prioritized by farmers in Malawi and those that are able to access this timely, get an assurance of adequate food production and extra for sale as long as rains fall reliably. Rose sold 1,000 fertilizer bags by the time she was visited in November 2020. By the end of the 2020/21 input distribution season, Rose has sold 1,000 MT (20,000 bags: 50% NPK, 50% Urea) against half of this (10,000 bags) that she sold previous season. She bought NPK fertilizer at a wholesale price of K18,500/50kg bag and Urea at K20,000/bag. She sold both NPK and Urea at K21,500/bag under the Affordable Inputs Program (AIP). This has translated into a total revenue of US$573,333.33 (MwK430m) and a profit of US$40,000 (K30m) for NPK fertilizer and US$20,000 (K15m) for Urea. T

otal profit for NPK and Urea fertilizer sales for 2020/21 season is US$60,000 (K45m). The doubling of her sales has been due to her being selected and trusted as one of the private distributors of this year’s government Affordable Inputs Program.

A few of the agro dealer hub owners supported by AGRA were selected under this program, demonstrating their growth. Rose also distributed 2,400 bags fertilizer donated by YARA under the Action Africa Agenda.

She has built a larger shop that can handle 2,000 – 3,000 bags, no longer renting as in the past. She has bought 3HA of land where she plans to build a large warehouse using profits from her fertilizer sales this season. She also bought a personal vehicle and plans to purchase a lorry to help in her input distribution. She has been hiring lorries to deliver to groups but will now cut on this, which is one of her largest costs. Rose has 30,000 customers currently with 17 shops spread across the 5 districts in Northern Malawi. 5 are permanent and 12 are seasonal.

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