U Nyi Nyi Naing is an agro-input retailer and owner of a shop called Swan Htet Yar Zar in Kyauk Phu village of Taungtha township in Myanmar. In 2016 Nyi Nyi Naing began participating in activities implemented by IFDC’s Dry Zone Agro-Input and Farm Services (DZ) project, funded by the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT).

He attended training sessions on inputs, advisory services, and business management.

“I now have better understanding about my products, services, and marketing strategies,” he says. “I can manage my business better by keeping records more systematically.”

Since the project began, Nyi Nyi Naing has added 225 new farmer customers from eight villages and expanded his market area by 530 acres. He distributes a range of new products to his customers, including compound fertilizer, organic fertilizer, gypsum, organic crop protection products (CPPs), sprayers, and other equipment.

To share agricultural knowledge with farmers and expand his customer base, Nyi Nyi Naing collaborated with the Department of Agriculture (DOA), local farmers, and IFDC to organize 11 farmer trainings and establish five demonstration plots and field day events. Before becoming involved in the DZ project, he had no experience in organizing these types of activities.

Small Enhancement Grants from the DZ project enabled him to stock CPP protective materials (masks, gloves, glasses, rubber boots, and raincoats) to ensure his customers were safe while handling harmful chemicals. He also distributed technical pamphlets and T-shirts.

He provided a service to measure soil pH on 107 acres of land owned by 26 farmers from six villages and gave them advice on how to balance their soil’s pH. He also provided an inter-cultivator service on seven acres owned by three farmers from two villages and a seeding service on 20 acres owned by three farmers from Kyauk Phu village. To better understand his farmer customers, he travels door-to-door and provides them with technical books on agricultural practices.

Nyi Nyi Naing helped farmers understand that using small farm machinery is highly efficient and saves labor, time, and inputs. He demonstrated the use of a versatile multi-crop planter (VMP) to grow groundnut on 3 acres of land involving 27 farmers from four villages.

Through his increased income, he purchased a groundnut shelling machine to use on his own farm and to provide the service to his farmer customers at a reasonable price. Therefore, his role has expanded from an agro-input retailer to an input and service provider (ISP). Before, farmers traveled to another village to shell groundnuts and mill grain, but now these services are available within their village, saving them time and transportation costs.

In addition, Nyi Nyi Naing has a small oil mill. He produces groundnut oil and distributes it to the Myingyan and Taungtha markets. Now, he and his farmer customers can produce groundnut oil with one-stop service, shelling and milling the groundnut without leaving the village.

Through the project’s Enhancement Grants, Nyi Nyi Naing was able to purchase new products and to link directly with a dozen new suppliers. Before, he had no opportunity to link with these companies. Networking has allowed him to receive information about new inventory, companies, and markets and to build relationships and friendships through IFDC’s ISP Viber group.

Local farmers’ trust in input dealers has grown as a result of IFDC’s farmer trainings, demonstration plots, and field day activities. This has helped Nyi Nyi Naing increase the number of new customers. Sales volume has gradually increased, and business has expanded.

“My customers can now use new high-yielding seed varieties, organic fertilizers, CPPs, small machinery, and improved cropping systems and patterns,” says Nyi Nyi Naing.

To help ISPs keep records and gain access to information, the DZ project provided laptops and training on Excel accounting software. As a result, Nyi Nyi Naing is increasing his knowledge about computers and accounting. Now, he and his son keep better business records and can plan out their finances.

Nyi Nyi Naing participates in the ISP township-level sub-group and is a member of the ISP Cooperative Association. As a member of this association, he can purchase inputs collectively at a discount which enables him to pass on the lower costs to his customers. In addition, his linkages with other ISPs have grown.

Before the project, Nyi Nyi Naing considered the DOA to be only a regulatory body, and he only contacted them to register as a dealer. But now he links with DOA staff in extension activities. Collectively with other ISPs, he donated a projector, generator, and amplifier (valued at U.S. $287) to the township DOA to enhance agricultural extension activities in Taungtha township. The linkage between ISPs and the DOA is much stronger than before.

Nyi Nyi Naing says that the DZ project offered him experiences and skills that helped his business to thrive. Because of his growing profits, he can pay for the education of his son, who attends a medical university, and his daughter, who also attends university. Nyi Nyi Naing is thankful to IFDC’s DZ project and will continue to grow his business for his family and community.