The Role of VBAs is Crucial to Vision for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation, says AGRA President
AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) is analysing the expanding profile of Village-based Advisors (VBAs), to inform the development of AGRA’s 2030 strategy as it seeks to reach even more smallholder farmers.
‘’As we design our next strategy we want to make sure it will be informed by what we are learning from important partners such as the Village-based Advisors,“ said Dr. Agnes Kalibata in a virtual meeting with VBAs from Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria and Malawi.
Initially focusing on practically training farmers on yield-enhancing technologies including Good Agronomic Practices (GAP), the majority of the VBAs are graduating to become agri-entrepreneurs, either becoming agro-dealers, agents of agro-dealers/seed companies or agents of offtakers. AGRA has over the last three years facilitated the training of over 2,000 VBAs as rural agrodealers.
Since inception of our input distribution strategy , our partners have identified and trained about 33,000 VBAs who have directly reached about 6 million small-holder farmers by delivering critical extension services, underlying their crucial role in the overall AGRA mission of directly improving the productivity and livelihoods of 9 million smallholder farmers.
Dr. Kalibata said that such an impact can only be improved if VBAs have a forum for providing constant input in their achievements, challenges and vision for the programme. “If we can hear your perspective on what you think the future holds for you in this job, we can see how to ensure our strategy supports you,” she told the VBAs.
VBAs who spoke at the Conference explained how they have succeeded in helping farmers increase their yields. They also explained how they have started to generate income from different business lines including sale of inputs, and also as Agents of aggregation for farmers’ produce. Apart from creating rural self-employment opportunities, VBAs are helping farmers to sustainably access technologies and services at the last-mile thereby reducing the distance farmers have to travel to purchase yield-enhancing inputs.
“My engagement with farmers has enabled me to notice various gaps and needs among farmers, and I have now moved on from only training farmers to become a manufacturer and supplier of home-made poultry and pig feeds, thus reducing costs for local farmers,” said Timan Macharia, a VBA from Karai Ward in Kenya’s Kiambu County.
VBAs also spoke about their challenges. These included lack of access to finance to expand their businesses, as well as with transport to reach farmers, especially with the current COVID-19 containment measures that prohibit large congregations. As a result, many VBAs are forced to reduce the number of farmers they can mobilize for training, meaning they have to make more visits to reach individual farmers.