Smallholder Development Unit

With support from the Mastercard Foundation, AgDevCo's Smallholder Development Unit (SDU) connects agribusinesses, including our own investees, to thousands of smallholder farmers.

SDU objectives

Recognising that there are high set-up costs and economies of scale in smallholder outgrower schemes, the SDU provides up to $800,000 matching funding per project to support key systems and processes, enabling catalytic relationships between agribusinesses and smallholder farmers. Funds can be used to:

  • Conduct feasibility studies and define core components of an outgrower scheme
  • Implement and scale outgrower schemes, funding initial set-up and operational costs
  • Establish demonstration plots and training programmes to promote adoption of good agricultural practices
  • Develop information technology systems to manage smallholder schemes and track their impacts
  • Gain certifications (GlobalG.A.P., Fair for Life, Organic) to access new and premium markets for both business and farmer
  • Input credit schemes and link smallholder farmers to micro-finance institutions
  • Improve farming systems, income diversification, farmer resilience and environmental sustainability

SDU Opportunities

AgDevCo’s Smallholder Development Unit is no longer accepting unsolicited proposals for new funding partnerships. 

Country No. Start date End date
Malawi 2
Jacoma – Tropha
Tanzania 1
Uganda 1
Gulu Agricultural Development Company (GADC)

SDU Results between 2015 and 2021

agribusinesses with outgrower schemes
smallholder farmers benefitting from demos, training and viable commercial relationships
120,000 HA
grown using improved farming technologies
of smallholder farmers reached who are women
Of smallholder farmer reached who are aged less than 35 years old

SDU Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge sharing has been core to the SDU’s work since its start in 2015. Many publications, articles and blog posts have been published during this period. Click on the links below to access some of these resources.;

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7 June 2021
Article: Gender equality training for more successful smallholder production

This article highlights the success of Taylor Winch Tanzania in delivering the Gender Action Learning System (GALS), a community-led empowerment methodology that aims to give smallholder producers – particularly women – greater control over their lives.

17 March 2021
Five Years of the SDU: A series of celebratory events

To mark 5 years of the SDU, AgDevCo is convening a series of celebratory virtual events between Wednesday 24th March and Friday 26th March 2021. 

16 October 2020
Article: Systems of success - effective aggregation and scaling in smallholder farmer schemes

AgDevCo’s Smallholder Development Unit (SDU) has been convening periodic virtual knowledge sharing sessions for its partner businesses, as we all work to understand the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for African agribusiness and their smallholder producers and customers. 

29 September 2020
Case Study: Engaging with Smallholder Farmers: The Business Case

Our partners share how their smallholder farmer schemes have presented significant commercial opportunities.

29 September 2020
Case Study: Drivers of Change in Northern Uganda - Exploring the influence of Village Savings and Loans Associations among smallholder farmers.

This report summarises the findings from a qualitative impact assessment carried out with smallholder farmers to investigate the impact of GADC/SDU's VSLA programme. 

30 June 2020
Article: Using radio to reach smallholder farmers

Radio offers significant opportunities to agribusinesses and other organisations to communicate with smallholder farmers.