Blessed with Maize in Bukulu

On NINAYO’s first visit to Bukulu village, in September 2019, the farmers somberly told us of how their previous maize harvest had been destroyed by army worm. The farmers were wary of NINAYO and unenthusiastic- reasonably so.

I promised them that we would supply seeds, pesticides and fertilizers of the highest quality- at a discounted rate. I was prepared to lose money on this offer. Because I sincerely wanted to help, sure, but also because I needed to gain the villages trust. At harvest time I was going to need the farmers to trust me as I convinced them they could own their maize digitally on their phones, with our “e-fadhi” pilot.

When we returned in March, the village matriarchs lined up waiting to meet us. They ceremoniously decorated our faces with a white maize paste and sang loudly. We were surrounded by towering maize stalks. Crowds were funneling in to sign up for our “e-fadhi” service. After ten years working in East African farm villages- I’d never had a reception like this.

What is e-fadhi?

NINAYO built a USSD system dubbed “e-fadhi” (translates to “e-storage”) which enables farmers to own their harvests digitally on their phones, while the hard product is transferred and stored in a central marketplace. E-fadhi has the potential to eliminate the 40% of harvests lost during post harvest handling, and increase farmers incomes by an estimated 30%.

Today, 172 Bukulu farmers have applied for the 5 slots we have open for our trial. You would expect that farmers would be nervous about owning their assets digitally. But they have been using mobile money for years. Furthermore, they are tired of being ripped off by middlemen. Owning their product in Tanzania’s biggest warehouse was never available to them before. They know how much more money they stand to earn with e-fadhi.

NINAYO is working with the World Food Program to scale e-fadhi this summer to somewhere between 50 and 150 farmers. We could help thousands more farmers, but the opex is high as we are advancing the cost of storage, transport, and the maize itself to provide low income farmers this service. Our returns are significant at the end of the season, however, making this a sustainable business model.

I’m actively looking for NGO’s, investors and partners during this worldwide wfh. DM me with any recommendation you can. I’m all ears.