Africa’s bulk of agricultural production is by smallholder farmers living in rural areas most of whom have limited access to good transport infrastructure. This contributes to large post-harvest losses and high cost of agricultural products. The middlemen too are often exploitative in the distribution value chain because they reduce a farmer’s income and gain more when they inflate food prices. A middleman is someone who plays an intermediary role in a distribution or transaction chain between farmers, traders, and final markets especially in countries where markets are not well structured, a common situation in most developing countries.
Farmers often encounter high production costs in their efforts to boost their productivity but hardly get fair pricing of their products from middlemen who purchase from them at throw away prices and sell it high to traders to increase their revenues. As a result, this is one of the contributing factors that has made many people, especially young agripreneurs, to shy away from the sector because of the perception agriculture is “unprofitable”. The middlemen have a key role to play by linking smallholder farmers to markets; however, this should be a win-win situation and not at the expense of farmer’s hard work.
Most agricultural products are bulky and perishable however, with good transport infrastructure and well-coordinated distribution channels farmers can move their goods to different markets which will lead to increased investments, production and enhanced regional integration without which most of the agricultural products will go to waste. Due to the long distances it takes to reach markets, most vehicles nowadays are fitted with cold storage equipment to prolong shelf life of agricultural produce while preventing food loss and increasing income for farmers and traders.
Amidst the challenges encountered by farmers and traders in the food distribution value chain, it is promising to see young agripreneurs with innovations that eliminate exploitative middlemen in the value chain to benefit farmers; alternative means of transport especially in rural areas that enable produce reach markets on time and technological platforms that link farmers directly to markets.
Meet some of the GoGettaz who are transforming the food distribution value chain.
Distribution Express (DITEX) – Cameroon
Agriculture and transport are dependent on each other however, in some rural areas good transport infrastructure is a challenge leading to increased post-harvest losses because the produce does not reach markets on time.
WhatsNear is a mobile and web app developed by Fokou Hugues Bertin with an aim of helping farmers with cheap, reliable, and fast means of transporting their agricultural products from farm to the market. WhatsNear app acts as a one stop shop by providing a platform where the demand and supply of agricultural transport services meet target producers and buyers of different agricultural products and transport service providers.
The app is inserted into taxi-motorcycles and tricycles that are present in villages to facilitate “first mile delivery” of agricultural produce and to effectively overcome the low presence of cargo carriers in rural areas. The startup sells GPS devices to transport service providers and references them in the WhatsNear app: Their location, price, and availability in real time hence producers/consumers use the app to make a request online and have their products delivered. This has made life easy for both the producer and purchaser of agricultural produce who need transport because they only need to have the app which can trace their location, carrier vehicle available, real-time delivery and feedback from service received from this carrier. The app can be downloaded for free via Play Store.
Transport service providers have an option to pay for the GPS Tracking services using airtime and the startup does not charge for commission on transactions made between carriers and farmers.
Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited – Nigeria
In Nigeria, just like in any other African country many households spend a huge portion of their income on food which is one of the basic needs. The high cost of food reflects the markups from a series of middlemen before the produce finally gets to consumers.
The activities of agricultural middlemen are considered exploitative because they can contribute to artificial shortages which lead to price hikes, urban malnutrition, coupled with a high rate of post-harvest loss from improper food handling.
Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited, a startup byIfeoluwa Olatayo is improving efficiency in the value chain by linking rural farmers and urban retailers with end-to-end supply chain traceability, thereby sustainably cutting wastage and making foods affordable for urban consumers.
Using its procurement purchase platform technology which has a QR code, retailers scan to get additional information of the product such as origin of the produce, time harvested, cost, quantity available and the duration the produce will take on transit. Once the retailer chooses his/her desired agricultural produce and payment is done, a dispatch is made to their destination.All purchases and delivery are recorded electronically on the platform to improve information systems on the value chain, traceability and information sharing across the supply chain.
The startup intends to integrate blockchain technology to its mobile application to allow direct, secure and fast transactions from farmers (with offline capabilities for rural farmers) to record all food data and trade in a more transparent environment with traceable farm data.
Kilimo Fresh Foods Africa Limited -Tanzania
Kilimo Fresh meaningfresh agricultural produce is an e-commerce distribution platform linking farmers directly to the market whilst dodging exploitative middlemen, revamp the value chain and through its partnership with vehicles fitted with cold storage facilities they facilitate proper handling and transportation of agricultural produce from the time they are harvested, to the time they reach the final consumers. This has significantly contributed to a reduction of post-harvest losses and easy access to markets.
The online ordering platform developed by Baraka Jeremiah Chijenga Founder Kilimo Fresh Foods Africa Limited enables buyers to access quality and fresh produce directly from the farms at affordable prices and at a low fee the goods can be delivered directly to their doorstep with no intermediaries involved. The startup sources its produce directly from smallholder farmers, adds value through cleaning, sorting, and packing. Farmers therefore benefit from stable pricing and direct access to markets for their crops hence eliminating food waste between farm and fork.
Kilimo Fresh Foods Africa has plans to venture into new markets and integrate technology into its business.
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