While working in Senegal on post-harvest loss as experienced by farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, we met Modou. He’s a young farmer who was also an employee at PAFA, an organization doing some really significant rural development in Senegal. He has a farm that he has optimized after receiving training from PAFA, but struggles to get his product to market. So for our first rapid prototype we sought to find out if greater linkage to markets would change Modou’s prospects.
HOW I USED THIS METHOD
To test this, we prompted Modou with a challenge and a budget. He had 50,000 CFA (~$100) to rent a facility in his community, aggregate 1.5 tons of harvest, and find a trader who would buy these products from him.
Within days, Modou had found a facility, aggregated one ton of products, and even taken a trip to a market 35 km away to show a trader samples. He told us that the trader exclaimed, “This is the first time a small farmer has come to me—I will certainly come and see your crops!”
A few crucial pieces to running this prototype included choosing the right person to test out the concept with and focusing on an idea that made sense for this person. Modou fit because he is entrepreneurial, has received training through an NGO, and is an informal leader in his community. As for the focus, if testing to learn and validate one piece of the concept were not also presenting an idea that made sense for the person, it might be a hard sell. However, asking a farmer to save on the cost of transportation while cutting out the middleman took no convincing.
WHAT I LEARNED
What we immediately found from this prototype was that aggregation for cereals can work, and that traders too can benefit from picking up the products they need at a single location. What we still look to learn, as Modou continues this model, is how he organizes his community members and how they manage products of varying quality as more community members contribute aggregated products.
Sometimes a small nudge can create a world of difference. By giving Modou some seed capital and guidance around how to launch this prototype, we may have changed his community for the next year, if not longer. Farmers in their community had always assumed that they would bear the burden of transporting goods. Now they are empowered to have buyers come to them, simplifying their lives, improving their incomes, and reducing post-harvest loss.