The Rollout

MODEL

A good model for rolling out the Micro Investing concept will save cost, time, and enable international coordination. The rollout is divided in two; a setup in project mode that leads to a launch of a regular operation with well-defined activities.

DISTRICT BY DISTRICT

Malawi was selected to test and improve the new model. Rather than responding to interest all over the country, we choose to make a concentrated effort district by district. An implementing partner is chosen for each district, allowing for several partners and for these partners to move from one district to another and provide long-term jobs and an increasing level of expertise compared to a conventional project-based model.

Malawi is divided into three regions. In the Central region, Dowas is one of nine districts that are subdivided into Extension Planning Areas (EPA), which will also be selected one by one. The setup project has three main processes running in parallel. To find lead farmers that will agree to function as innovators is an essential goal. In the end, this process merges with another process: the recruitment of agronomists. Demo sites are used during the training of both agronomists and agri-preneurs.

‘Exit partners’ are mapped and selected to prepare for the day when the NGO intervention is phased out. Logistics partners that will participate from the start can reduce the activities of the NGO intervention and shorten the time needed to become a fully market-based operation.

A CLOCKWORK OF ACTIVITIES

After the initial setup and launch, the local rollout of the micro investing is in the hands of the roving agronomists. They will work with lead farmers to support groups of farmers. Each agronomist will need to visit several farmer groups every week and also visit individual sites for inspection and troubleshooting. Communication with the project manager and other team members takes place on a WhatsApp. Their participation in this digital channel, with pictures, advice and encouragement, helps build a team feeling and drive performance.

To assist farmers, one-to-one would be expensive and unsustainable. Therefore most activities will be organised around a Micro Investor Meeting held every three weeks. By establishing a fixed schedule, the service becomes predictable for the farmers and the agronomists can establish good working habits. Time-critical support like pest control must, of course, be handled on-demand, with lead farmers and local agri-preneurs as the first responders.

TEAMS WITH GRIT

For the number of participants in each group to grow, the agronomist will need to create a dynamic forum, multi-purpose meetings that both new and experienced farmers find useful and valuable. The ability to inspire and build strong relationships, offer quality knowledge as an agronomist and at the same time be an effective salesperson is needed. In addition to qualifications in agriculture, we look for ‘grit’.

Grit is defined as ‘firmness of character; indomitable spirit’. Angela Duckworth, a researcher of self-control and grit, tweaked this definition to be ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals’. The achievement-oriented individual is one who works tirelessly and completes the task at hand even among unforeseen shocks and surprises. This resilience is a dynamic combination of optimism, creativity and confidence, which together empower one to regulate emotion. A person with grit believes that both positive and negative experiences will lead to learning and growth.

Our district-by-district rollout is motivated by the need to build good relationships with local authorities and existing commercial players. Our goal is to strengthen the smallholders’ profitability through improved input supply and market access. We align with existing players and mobilise new ones as needed, always with our own exit in mind. A well-prepared launch of the ‘clockwork of activities’ is planned to switch from project mode to an operational mode where the Micro Investor Meetings are the core activity. Sharing a vision for the prosperous future of thousands of small farmers, the agronomist team will be the kick-starters who push an important transition into motion.