By Riley Dillahay
The Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program, funded by USAID, works to improve food security and agribusiness development internationally through recommendations made by U.S. specialists. As a F2F implementer, CRDF Global recruits and sends these experts on two-week volunteer assignments, during which volunteers explore the challenges that the host agribusiness organizations are facing, provide technical assistance, and collaborate with other specialists to sustainably counteract these challenges.
Uzbekistan is a leading producer of fruits and vegetables in the Central Asia region. As the nation develops and expands its agriculture sector, major areas of interest are climate smart agriculture and expanding export markets. CRDF Global’s F2F program operates within these priorities and integrates these concepts into volunteer assignment scopes.
The Agromir Group is a major producer of stone fruits, apples, and pears, located in the Samarkand region of Uzbekistan. The company has utilized drip irrigation for the past 10 years to conserve water and improve production; however, they have faced many challenges with this practice, ultimately resulting in yield reductions. Some of the problems they have encountered over the years include the clogging of emitters and filters, unequal distribution of water due to the inconsistent topography of the land, and overall damage to their crops.
The Agromir Group is a vertically integrated company and therefore also serves as the parent company to Maroqand Meva Sabzavot LLC (MMS). MMS focuses on fruit and vegetable production and exportation. Although MMS is a separate legal entity from the Agromir Group, they do not have an individual brand identity, and are facing challenges in their attempt to expand into external markets and become a leader in the orchard farming industry.
Two volunteers were assigned to help combat these challenges: Mr. Jack Butler to address the drip irrigation problems at the Agromir Group, and Ms. Mercedes Diane Griffin to work on marketing and branding for MMS. Mr. Butler is the President of Primerus Products, which aims to provide reliable and efficient irrigation methods globally. Ms. Griffin is the Lead/Principal Consultant at Diane Griffin Enterprises, which provides marketing and management consultation to many individuals, businesses, and organizations. Both individuals were recruited based on their expertise to help address the challenges faced by the Argomir Group and MMS. In addition to suggesting solutions for these specific issues, the volunteers each led a lecture at a university in Uzbekistan, sharing their perspectives and experiences with students who could apply them in their future professions.
During his assignment, Mr. Butler determined that the irrigation system that was in place at the Agromir Group was not capable of meeting all of the needs across the farm. He found that the technical design of the system is correct; however, the pump stations are too small for the size of the fields that need to be irrigated, the application rates are too low, and the topography of the land they are irrigating was not considered prior to installation of the system.
From his time spent with the Agromir Group, Mr. Butler developed a list of immediate action recommendations that will help to increase yield, improve the quality of the fruits and vegetables produced, decrease the irrigation system management over time, and increase the longevity of irrigation system components. This list of recommendations focuses on simple solutions that will have impactful results and have the potential to be completed within the next year.
While working with MMS, Ms. Griffin quickly discovered that the company had no brand identity, which was hindering their ability to expand into external markets. She identified three specific business goals for MMS which were to increase brand awareness, drive sales, and foster relationships with customers.
To help MMS reach these goals, Ms. Griffin trained the management team in establishing business development processes related to marketing, advising them on how to use digital marketing strategies and develop brand best practices to eventually market their products online. She also provided branding, communications, and content strategies to help MMS communicate effectively with their target audience. Ms. Griffin developed a list of recommendations to be implemented into the company’s marketing strategy within the next few months to improve their digital market presence.
By implementing the recommendations made by Mr. Butler, The Agromir Group will likely see a significant increase in product yield and quality. They will also be able to decrease the amount of time and labor put into maintenance of their irrigation system annually. Similarly, by maintaining the branding, communications, and content strategies developed by Ms. Griffin, Maroqand Meva Sabzavot LLC will have the opportunity to expand into external markets and continue to grow in the future.