Sonho Real (Real Dream), is a farmers’ savings group in a rural area of Nampula province. The group of 30 women and 5 men save money together for basic needs.
Oruwera is an agribusiness specializing in supplying improved agricultural seeds to farmers in Mozambique. Oruwera was looking to expand its business and customer base.
These two different groups found themselves on different sides of the same problem - women’s access to the agricultural market. While women make up 35% of small and medium scale farmers in Mozambique, they have not traditionally been considered serious actors in the agricultural market. This oversight limits the customer base for companies like Oruwera, but more importantly, it affects women's access to everything from agricultural products, training and financial services. Without equal access, women farmers, like those in Sonho Real, find it difficult to achieve the same success as male farmers.
With support from the USAID’s Feed the Future INOVA program, Oruwera began collaborating with Sonho Real and 13 other savings groups to develop a sustainable, gender-sensitive retail and distribution strategy. This strategy considered the challenges that women face, like cultural barriers that discourage their travel to hubs where agro-dealers are located, limited access to traditional financial service, and lower literacy rates.
As a solution, Oruwera created a network of 5 female village-based sales agents who sold their products closer to where women shopped and used them. With support from INOVA, Sonho Real and other groups formed local farmer buyers’ clubs, where the mostly female members could pool their resources and buy quality Oruwera seeds at a lower cost.
According to Amilcar Benate, Oruwera’s managing director, “Our new marketing and distribution strategy prioritizes gender because women are working and acting as leaders in agriculture. They should have access to the products and resources they need to succeed.”
TREATING WOMEN AS VALUABLE CUSTOMERS IS NOT JUST GOOD FOR BUSINESS, IT IS GOOD FOR COMMUNITIES
The Sonho Real savings group was excited about Oruwera’s new focus on taking women into consideration in the company’s strategy. The group began channeling some of their savings to buy seeds through the newly formed buyers ‘clubs.
Sonho Real member Isabel Francisco Lopes explains, “Many women only have our own money after harvest season. That means many women depend on her husband's willingness to give her money to buy seeds during planting season. But now, with the support of FTF-Inova and Oruwera's buyers’ clubs, we are more independent and able to get exactly what seeds we want, when we need them."
Oruwera also took the solution one step further and made seed deliveries to more remote communities using a small, motorized tricycle. This quick distribution of the improved seeds to women participating in the buyers’ clubs increased Oruwera’s sales, but also made it easier for women to access products. Before these delivery system improvements, women often had to travel 30 km or more to district capitals or rely on their husbands to make the trip and select products for them.
Doing more than dropping off seeds, the new delivery system also allowed Oruwera to provide mobile technical training on planting, harvesting and pesticide use to help the women increase their yields. These solutions improved the problem of women’s access to agricultural markets.
And this way, the company builds and maintains close relationships with all its customers, not just the ones who can travel to hubs. Because Oruwera develops a clear schedule for deliveries, the women in the buyers' clubs can better plan for purchases and for their planting.
Oruwera also redesigned their packaging with women in mind as customers. Recognizing that women in Mozambique have lower literacy rates, they simplified the text to make the product information more accessible to women and featured images of women on the packaging to highlight women as key players in agriculture. Based on feedback from women in Oruwera’s buyers’ clubs, the company will continue to fine tune options in packaging such as offering more sizes to meet the needs of women, who often have smaller plots.
The collaboration between these farmer groups and Oruwera is a model that can be replicated in other regions and between other companies. Increasing women’s access to quality seeds improves their control over their agricultural production and ultimately, their economic success. After all, a good harvest depends on many factors - soil and climate conditions, the quality of the seeds, the skills of the farmer, and more. A farmer’s gender should never be one of them.
FTF-Inova has worked in Mozambique since 2017 to provide the framework for ensuring that successes in Mozambique’s agricultural sector are enduring, that market actors are resilient, and that women benefit from growth in the agricultural sector. FTF-Inova supports Oruwera and other private-sector agricultural companies in the country to improve relationships and linkages between these firms and other market participants throughout the value chain. The program is implemented by DAI.
Story and photos by DAI