23rd March, 2006 - Ellinos Mazorodze was running a small country store eight years ago in Zimbabwe’s Zaka District when CARE workers approached him about joining a new program. They explained he could make more money while helping nearby farmers become much more efficient.
It sounded too good to be true, but Mazorodze signed up. As the aid workers explained it, CARE would help Mazorodze obtain credit from suppliers enabling him to purchase in bulk. In turn, he would help nearby farmers do the same. Farmers also would be spared the costs of traveling long distances to the big suppliers in order to purchase seeds, fertilizer, poultry feed and vegetables.
“Farmers used to go to the city by bus,” Mazorodze says. “Sometimes they would go all that way for nothing because the suppliers might be out, or the price might have shot up. For some farmers this was costing them a lot of money. Now they can place their orders with me and just bring their wheelbarrows here to pick up their orders.”
Mazorodze, 51 years old, says the CARE project, called the Agent program, has proved a godsend. “When I started, I had one shop with about 6000 Zim dollars in stock. We had about 15 farmers as customers. Now, we have six shops serving more than 500 farmers and our stock is worth $2.5 billion Zim dollars.”
What CARE did for Mazorodze, it did for 13 other small store owners in the Zimbabwe province of Masvingo. CARE then helped the 14 agents ban together into a Business Management Organization (BMO) to increase their leverage with suppliers.
“We were able to negotiate much better rates with the suppliers,” Mazorodze said. “But our plan for the future is to build a warehouse and cut out the middle man altogether. This way, we make more money and the farmers save more money.”
The BMOs have also started a rotational savings and credit association among themselves. Each member contributes an identical amount each month, and then they take turns in receiving the bulk of that money to spend however they like on their businesses.
While CARE had to guarantee the suppliers’ lines of credit in a few cases, the project proved such a hit that the farmers were able to provide their own collateral, according to Gabriel Pise, the project manager for the Agent program. “This really does benefit the whole community. We help to build the economies of chronically poor rural areas – both by building the capacity of the small businesspersons and by lowering the costs to the farmers.”