In my short time at CoAmana, I have come to realize that a common theme is unlearning and relearning. Anybody from a financial background reading this will understand how hard it is to let go of all the rules, expectations and viewpoints that have come to be a crucial part of us.
Before joining CoAmana I had never had the experience of working with farmers and at first it felt like I had been dropped in an ocean and my choices were sink or swim. We have had to constantly realign our processes in order to address the needs of the farmers and traders to ensure that our practices are more impact than profit driven.
It is common knowledge in the agriculture space that one of the major problems faced by farmers in sub Saharan Africa is having access to ready buyers for their produce and at reasonable prices. On the other hand, traders within the markets have ready buyers but oftentimes they do not have the required capital to source for products directly from farmers.
How did we address this problem? We stepped in and served as market links through Amana Market, for registered traders within our partner Market Clusters. We provide them with what we call “working capital” to enable them to get these products to trade with. The major condition for accessing “working capital” is that these traders have to source products directly from farmers.
Over time, this model has allowed traders and farmers to expand their businesses with confidence. We monitor each party’s performance over time and increase their working capital limits in order to encourage them. With this model, we have impacted thousands of businesses and built trust across different clusters in 2 countries. We have seen sales groups go from transacting in thousands to transacting in millions. Despite all the successes we have had with the current model, we have come to realize that it is not foolproof as we have had to put in place several mechanisms to ensure it works and till date, as we have continued to expand, we are constantly having to learn and adapt our processes.
Most of the challenges we (CoAmana, farmers and traders) have faced so far, have stemmed from the political, social, environmental and economic factors; Inflation rates affecting prices and traders’ abilities to meet up, volume and quality of farmers’ produce threatened by drought/ climate change, just to mention a few.
Stay tuned as we will give more insight to these challenges and how we have been able to navigate these challenges in our next issue.