Using Mobile Payments to Pay Farmers

Client: Cargill, NWK Agri-services
IDinsight service:
Impact evaluation, Scale-up support

The Problem

Out-grower schemes in Zambia are traditionally faced with the difficult task of distributing large amounts of cash to the rural areas of Zambia to purchase cotton and maize from their contracted farmers. Simultaneously, farmers suffer from lack of access to formal financial services and tools for saving income. Cargill Zambia and NWK Agri-services have partnered with MTN mobile provider to explore payment to these contracted farmers via mobile phones. However, only half of farmers have experience using phones and only 60% are literate. Additionally, the use of these phones requires maintenance costs from the farmer which potentially make the service more costly than the traditional alternative of cash payments. IDinsight has been engaged by Musika to help these agribusiness solve this issue of program adoption and participation by testing and evaluating various implementation scenarios.

Evidence Needs

IDinsight is currently working with Cargill Zambia to identify potential interventions for driving and sustaining participation in the e-payments program.

IDinsight Service

In 2013, IDinsight conducted field visits and support for the pilot implementation of card based e-payments with NWK Agri-services (formerly Dunavant). In 2014, IDinsight continued to support NWK as they identified potential avenues for implementing e-payments and ultimately began work with Cargill Zambia on their ongoing pilot program with MTN Mobile Money in 10 depots across Eastern Province, Zambia. IDinsight conducted qualitative interviews with Cargill staff and implemented an exploratory survey with farmers in the pilot region. Moving forward, IDinsight is working with Cargill to identify key interventions that could drive and sustain participation in the program moving into the 2014-2015 marketing season.


While the pilot data is inconclusive, data collected from farmer surveys indicated that there is a strong preference for e-payments among farmers in pilot and non-pilot depots. Farmers cited the ability to accumulate savings and the safety of their money as the main benefits while the challenges included: slow payment speed, high transaction costs, and insufficient education. Through this survey data, IDinsight also targeted household operations, food, and school fees as key areas for Mobile Money to engage the communities as they build out the local e-finance ecosystem.