Vouching for farmers
In Côte d’Ivoire, a fundraising platform offers consumers the possibility to financially support small farmers in exchange for harvests at a discount.
Interest-free financing is being provided to farmers by local consumers and international organisations through an Ivorian online voucher system; in exchange, the smallholder farmers sell their produce to the investors at below-market prices. The crowdfunding platform, developed by fintech start-up Seekewa, helps small farmers to create an online profile, which describes their farming activities as well as their material and financial needs for their production goals.
Investors registered with the platform purchase electronic vouchers for a minimum of US$25 (€22,85), which are then converted into ‘points’ that the investor allocates through the website against the farmers’ required goods and services – such as seeds/other inputs, agricultural equipment or labour. Seekewa uses the credit provided through the voucher to purchase the services. “We don’t give farmers monetary loans, but instead supply the equipment and services they need in order to improve their production," explains Serge Zamblé, president of Seekewa.
“We have partnerships with suppliers who give us very fair wholesale prices. In the centre of the country, for instance, machetes are sold near villages for 3,000 FCFA [€4.59]. Our supplier charges us 1,250 FCFA [€1.91] for them. This means that we can supply farmers with a machete for approximately 2,000 FCFA [€3.06],”says Frédéric Zamblé, managing director of Seekewa and brother of Serge. “Our two main sources of income are discounts from wholesalers for the purchase of equipment and inputs, and margins achieved by selling on the harvested crops," explains Serge.
The farmer has 1 year to repay the costs of the services, with the understanding that Seekewa will purchase their harvest. The investor can then buy the harvested crop at a discounted price or donate it to a school or a hospital, for instance.
When a farmer is interested in joining the platform, Seekewa sends one of their analysts to assess the farm needs and the potential for return on investment by analysing the soil, ease of access to the plot, the presence of a water source or an irrigation system, etc. “The analyst uses our app, Seekewa Insight, which has a questionnaire, to assess the farmer’s skills. For a project to be eligible, it must be run by a farmer who has the skills. We ensure that the project is technically feasible and will be economically profitable," says Serge.
In Brihiri, in the south of the country, Sanogo Awa and her husband used to grow rice on a plot that was too small for them to earn a decent living. “I needed to expand my field to one additional hectare,” she says. Seekewa allowed her to raise the necessary funds to buy an extra plot of land and increase her productivity. “I now have better profits and can help my community,” she continues.
Launched in February 2018, Seekewa has so far financed 102 projects in Côte d’Ivoire, increasing the production of crops such as aubergines, cocoa, maize, onions, rice, peppers and tomatoes. A total of €80,000 has been raised to support these projects with contributions from around 50 private individuals and organisations, including the insurance company ASCOMA, Compagnie Ivoirienne D’électricité, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, and the International Organisation for Migration.
The objective of the start-up is to finance at least 1,500 projects by 2021 and to supply at least 10,000 households in Côte d’Ivoirewith fresh produce. “We are thinking of expanding our activities the same year to Benin, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Within 5 years, we want to be the leading supplier of fresh food produce in West Africa," states Serge.