BRIDGE\’s enterprise seek to meet producers and traders of common beans halfway in the sale and acquisition of inexpensive source of protein in Northern Zambia. This will be achieved by offering ready and guaranteed markerts to producers by purchasing beans directly and storing in secured facilities. Value added beans will be offereed to traders at convenient locations and reasonable prices. It is estimated that postharvest losses will be reduced by 30% and farmer income levels increased by 25%.
We seek to provide service to two groups of customers that is, producers and traders of common beans. Producers of common beans constitute an important part of the industry. They are mainly smallholder low-income farmers residing in Northern Zambia which is one of the major common bean producing regions. Producers live in poverty endemic areas characterised by mud houses, lack of electricity and a good source of drinking water. There are no good roads to link producers to markets where they can sell their produce. Farming is the main source of employment with the revenue from the sale of produce constituting their only source of income. They have no access to market and price information and are unable to transport their produce to the market. These together compel producers to take prices dictated by traders.
Traders are predominantly women who live in neighbouring towns with functional markets. They have the capital to buy large quantities of beans and retail to petty traders but not enough capital to put up storage facilities for the produce acquired from farmers. There is a considerable amount of waste in the hands of these traders. Traders make their profit at the expense of producers by purchasing large quantities at very low prices. They bear the cost of transporting the beans from production areas to market centres. This activity constitutes the major cost of their operations. They do not have any beliefs against the handling, processing and consumption of common beans.
The enterprise will offer a number services and values to both producers and traders of common beans in Northern Zambia. It will first offer ready market and guaranteed minimum price to producers of common beans. The enterprise will be strategically located midway between production areas and market centres. It will offer storage for produce thereby maintaining product quality and minimising postharvest losses. There will be an element of value addition by sorting, grading, packaging and processing bean types that are not visually appealing to consumers into flours. The transportation cost of traders will be met halfway since the enterprise will bridge the gap between producers and traders of common beans living in two different geographical areas.
Producers will purchase our services because we will provide them with up to date price information on common beans, guaranteed market for their produce before the start of a production season and guaranteed prices which will not be below their cost of production. To help increase productivity, inputs will be offered to producers in need which will be paid for after harvest or during sale of produce.
Traders will be offered quality products which will save them labour and time needed for sorting and grading products for subsequent sale. They would have the choice of purchasing variety of products such as graded products and processed bean flour. The transportation expenses of traders will be significantly reduced since they would not have to go to production areas to buy produce. In addition, traders will have a reliable market to source beans for subsequent sale.
The core problem being solved is the unfair prices handed down to producers due to their inability to transport their produce to the market to obtain a fair price. Farmers also don’t have storage facilities during the period of a bumper harvest to store produce and thus sell at lower prices. Particular to traders, the burden of finding transportation, bear the entire cost of transporting produce from production areas often through unmotorable roads is dealt with. Significant amount of losses at the hands of traders due to inappropriate storage facilities when produce is kept for long periods of time is mitigated.
The team has previously worked with common bean farmers and traders in selected communities in Northern Zambia. A research was undertaken to understand the common bean value chain, identify challenges and opportunities. An extensive data was collected to this effect and therefore the team has a good idea of the challenges facing common bean farmers and traders. This has informed the development of this proposal. There is presently an existing contact with farmers and traders of common beans in some selected communities in Northern Zambia. The team also has close working collaboration with Self Help Africa in the project location. This is because they played an essential role in linking farmers and traders with the team and guiding discussions. This collaboration is still in existence since there are occasional discussions with them concerning the previous projects and follow-ups during the evaluation process.
To strengthen the existing relationship the Bridge team will endeavour to build trust between themselves and producers as well as traders of common beans. The team will ensure that we keep our promises on going to producing communities at specified times and paying the agreed price to farmers. This to build a cordial relationship with farmers and foster commitment on their part to the team. To maintain such relationship with farmers and traders, meetings will be held after every harvesting season to review the season’s activities, address challenges that arose, assess performance and agree on changes to be made of the need arises.
The key activities of the enterprise are to firstly source beans from producers by purchasing directly from them. The beans are transported directly from producing communities with a truck.
Secondly, the enterprise stores large quantities of beans sourced from the producers in a storage facility. The beans are adequately sorted and graded upon reaching the facility after which they are bagged and stored. The facility is built taking into consideration the climatic conditions (temperature and humidity) in the area. The facility will, therefore, be designed and built for easy control of temperature and humidity. Appropriate measures will be implemented to prevent insect attack on the bean seeds thus maintaining its quality.
Beans that are visually unappealing to consumers are separated after sorting and further processed into bean flour. The flour will be made mostly available to producers working with the Bridge team at little or no cost (breakeven price-not profit). Bean flour can be incorporated into different dishes to improve the nutritional value of meals. It can be used in the preparation of porridge for children or used in combination with wheat flour to make nutritious bread or corn flour to improve the protein content of Nshima, a popular meal in Zambia. Providing this new product largely to producers and traders can help improve the consumption of more nutritious foods. Self Help Africa is currently working in sensitising producers about the importance of beans in their diet and the prospects of bean flour especially for children.
Thirdly, the enterprise will sell the beans directly to traders instead of they buying directly from farmers thereby becoming the middlemen within the value chain. A ready market for already bagged beans is made available to traders at the storage facility which will be close to marketing centres. Transportation plans will be put in place for wholesale traders in centres far from the storage location when required and requested.
The enterprise will be working closely with farmer groups, Self Help Africa and other interested organisations that have worked with crop farmers on several development projects such as World Vision. The enterprise will also partner with fleet companies who will provide transportation services. Farmer groups and local sac producing companies will constitute our suppliers.
World Vision will be consulted to help farmers embrace this concept. Also, in the event of conflict between the Bridge team and the farmers, the help of World Vision and traditional authorities would be sought to provide ideas on how to resolve such conflicts. The Bridge team will seek the support of World Vision in sourcing inputs for farmers at reasonable prices. In the event of regional price volatility for common beans, the help of World Vision will be sought on how to market the produce at reasonable profits in a rural setting. Promotion of the consumption of beans as a nutritious and cheap source of protein to tackle the problem of malnutrition among rural folks will be achieved with the help of World Vision. This is because they have an extensive knowledge of working with rural communities in solving issues of food security, hunger and malnutrition especially among women and children.
An initial capital of $45,128 will be invested into the enterprise with the storage facility taking about 66% of this cost. The enterprise will obtain revenue solely from the sale of beans to traders after purchasing them from producers. We expect to raise a revenue of $13,000 after every farming season. With two farming seasons in a year we expect to raise twice this revenue ($26,000). The revenue obtained will used in running the enterprise and making subsequent purchases for resale.
Storage facility =$30,000 (12,000sq feet)
Beans =$8000 (10 tons)
Labour (3) =$756 per year
Wage for Secretary=$372 per year
Transportation service (fuel + labor+ rental) =$2,500
In one year after the commencement of the project and sale of produce we expect to breakeven.
The Bridge team seeks to help rural farmers in Northern Zambia increase the income from the production and sale of common beans by providing them with ready market and fair prices. An increase in income levels will indirectly improve the standard of living of these farming communities. They can afford to feed their families, educate their children and cater for the health needs of family members. The provision of bean flour to farming households will contribute to improving the nutritional status of household members especially children.
The problem of farmers toiling for months and engaging in tedious farming activities only to receive peanuts after sale of produce is disheartening. This has and will continue to leave rural farmers in Northern Zambia impoverished if nothing is done about it. In as much as these farmers will want to change their situation they don’t have what it takes to deal with their predicament.
This is a major challenge for farmers and thus have become of great importance to us especially due to previous interactions and discussions with them. More importantly, the bridge team focuses on this problem because, the picture of the faces of women and men sitting under the sun on the ground to answer questions and relate their problems in the hope of being provided with a solution cannot be forgotten.
Many research studies have been conducted by research students without any feedback or solution directly being provided to the farmers in these target communities. I vividly recall the response of a farmer during a previous survey that “You guys always come to collect data and promise us so much, but we never hear from you again”. It is the hope of the Bridge team that we will not be one of those researchers who offer no solution to these rural folks. An opportunity to provide these farmers with a solution after an extensive research of the common beans value chain will be highly embraced.
Among the selected communities in the Luwingu district, in the Northern province of Zambia, there is currently no enterprise trying to solve this particular problem. The problem has existed for years and there seem to be no signs of a solution being presented anytime soon.
A number of indicators will be used in measuring the impact of our program. These include
(1) The number of farming households reached by this program
(2) The increase in income levels of farming households from sale of beans before and after the introduction of the program
(3) Improvement in household diets and nutritional status of producers
(4) Reduction in postharvest losses at the producer and trader level
(5) Increase acreage of land allocated for bean cultivation before and after the introduction of the program
(6) Increase in income levels of traders
Strengths & Weaknesses
The Bridge team considers her knowledge of the agricultural and farming process in tropical regions especially Africa as one of her key strengths. We have greater understanding of the socioeconomic characteristics of proposed project community. The team has a total of 12 years working with rural farmers and farming households. Among other strengths are the skills, drive, energy and passion of the members to carry out the project task. The team also has contacts with the farmers within the community and some development organisations working in these communities.
Even though the team clearly understands the problems in the community and have strategies to address the challenges, we are constrained with the initial capital to implement the strategies.
We are assuming that farmers will be willing to sell their beans at a much higher price than current prices being received. Farmers will be willing to sell their beans to any individual or group offering a higher price. In the short term there is a less likelihood of bean farmers in the community reducing significantly. Also, farmers are willing to work in cooperatives and remain committed to selling their beans to the enterprise. The team does not foresee major price fluctuations in the price of beans. Traders will go for products and services which provide them with more benefits than less. Thereby they will be willing to purchase from the enterprise. Development agencies will be willing to work with the team to help implement proposed strategies.
Most Significant Challenge
The illiteracy level of farmers may impede the adoption of our proposed strategy. That is their inability to clearly understand the concept of the project and might be averse to change. The team will make every effort to effectively communicate their ideas to the farmers by using opinion among them to disseminate the concept clearly to fellow farmers. We anticipate opposition from trading middlemen to this concept since it might put some of them out of business.