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Partnering for Innovation is finding that data based understanding of farmers' motivation and behavior helps gear commercial sales to suit the needs of their customer, smallholder farmers. A recent survey conducted by one of Partnering for Innovation’s partners in Mozambique reveals that understanding smallholder farmers' thinking and behavior can help drive technology and adoption, resulting in increasing their company's sales while opening pathways for farmers to make earlier decisions about their farming businesses by buying certified seeds early, when they have cash in hand from their recent production.

This recent survey was conducted in part to inform the company’s business with regards to the development of a sales management information system as well as a general understanding of stakeholder behaviors to increase the sale of improved seeds so that farmers could opt to buy seed early. Below are major findings from the survey:


  • Payment structure- Farmers may not be willing to pay additional cash for the improved seeds from their pocket or may not have the savings available. Partners' experiences in other countries suggests that giving farmers the option to receive partial payment for cash crop sales in the form of high-quality seed at the time of sale, increased adoption of the seed.


  • Timing- Linked closely to payment structure is the timing of seed sales. Marketing and sales of seeds is often focused on the planting season. This is months after the farmers have been paid for their crops and often when they have the least amount of disposable income. By moving up the selling season to the same time that farmers are receiving money the company did not even have to offer alternative payment options as the farmers had the cash to purchase seeds.


  • Cost-Benefit of seed: Improved seed significantly increases the cost of production, representing 15-25% of total value. This high cost tends to decrease adoption rates of seeds in favor of adopting lower-cost good agriculture practice measures such as efficient land preparation and planting as well as the use of inoculants. Mechanization and inoculants have fewer added costs and significant impact on yield. The company will use this as entry points with the farmer, paving the way for the adoption of improved seed in the future.


  • Sales point locations- Farmers must travel long distances to get the improved seed. By increasing the sales points to be closer to the farmers, there is a higher likelihood for them to buy the seeds.


  • Trusted seller- Farmers can be skeptical of improved seeds and if what they are buying can really be trusted. They do not want to spend their money on seeds that will not provide improved results.


Combining seed sales with other services such as mechanization is one strategy to increase seed sales. Should the company be able to offer reliable mechanization services that is another business line and could help to increase seed sales and could greatly be improved by supporting stakeholders in profiling their clients, identifying their location and creating a more efficient schedule.

What are other examples of how commercial companies have used social sciences to increase adoption or sales? Reply below or message Mark Sevier