Understanding the Role of Women Direct Sales Agent through Research on Agriculture: Insights and Recommendations

40% of Indonesia’s smallholder farmers are women, but they are frequently overlooked by input companies, extension workers and even development programs. In fact, women play a prominent role in increasing farmer households’ access to high-quality agricultural products and services, benefitting both farmers and business performance.

Recognising this, PRISMA introduced a sales agent model to rural farming communities. The model promotes women as sellers of agricultural products and services, and as disseminators of good agricultural practices (GAP) to farming households.

So far, the model has shown encouraging uptake, but the factors which enable and discourage growth of the model are not always immediately obvious. To better understand these and how they impact women’s economic empowerment (WEE), in 2020, PRISMA began a study in over three provinces in Indonesia.

With over 500 respondents and ten private sector partners, the research looked at farmer uptake and preferences, corporate strategies, as well as the challenges faced by the women agents.

Some of the key takeaways from the study include:

  • Women sales agents are very successful: 91% of them influenced farmers to apply agricultural knowledge and/or buy their products
  • Women DSAs are valued by both men and women farmers
  • Women agents juggle numerous responsibilities and come from a wide range of backgrounds, so organisations need to design programs which account for these factors
  • Women farmers prefer agents of the same gender as their information sources.

As COVID-19 began to impact Indonesian agriculture, PRISMA extended the study to explore how the pandemic has affected the livelihoods and business activities of the women DSAs. The COVID-19 Update also looks at how companies and development programs can respond according to their needs.

Through the survey conducted in April 2020, the research found that:

  • The majority of women DSAs experienced a decline in sales due to limited door-to-door sales and customers’ declining income.
  • While most of the women DSAs adjusted well to new working from home arrangements, a minority of them perceived using online communications to be less effective than face-to-face meetings.
  • A large proportion of DSAs reported that they have received various degrees of support from their companies to prepare to work during COVID-19. This support includes safety guidelines on COVID-19, loans, and training.

To help support women agents, these issues can be addressed by introducing pricing/payment strategies which correspond with customers’ reduced financial capacity; continuing the provision of online marketing/communication training; and monitoring to ensure that the full range of supports are well-communicated to all women DSAs.

PRISMA will use the findings and recommendations from the two studies to advise partners and peers to design and implement sustainable models that are profitable and empower women.

To learn more about the findings of PRISMA’s Direct Sales Agent Research, take a look at the full report on PRISMA’s website here.

Read the COVID-19 Update through this link.

For more information and collaboration, contact us at info@aip-prisma.or.id.