Rich Granny, Poor Granny

Did you know that before 1997 small farmers in Zimbabwe produced more corn than all commercial producers combined? In 1995, production reached a record 2.6 million tonnes. We are talking about a universe of 1.5 million family farmers compared to less than 4,000 large-scale producers in the same year of 1995. In the late 2000s, agriculture contributed more than 21% of the country’s GDP.

But how is it possible that producers who did not own more than 3 hectares produce more corn than large landowners who even cultivated 2,000 hectares? What motivated families, who would normally produce enough for their food, not to stop there and still produce a surplus? How did they know who to sell that surplus to? How did they know what the surplus was worth and if it would cover the costs incurred? Keep these questions in mind as we look at a situation much closer to us.

Angola is also a country in sub-Saharan Africa and has a significant number of family farmers. These farmers, most of whom are women, make up almost 9 million citizens of the country (6 times more than in Zimbabwe) who somehow engage in activities related to agriculture, with a large majority of these working informally. Angolan families have 25% more arable land than Zimbabwean families, yet few of them can claim to be able to make a living from what they produce. Much less can they say that they live on the surplus of their production. Virtually none of these families can say for sure how much they will earn per kilogram of corn or whether the market will be able to absorb that product. This is a safe recipe for waste, which studies have found to be 13% of local production.

The painful reality is that many see their crops rotting or being destroyed by pests simply because they fail to get a fair value for them. They hope that if they postpone the sale, they will get better prices. Other times they simply cannot afford to transport their production to the best markets in urban centers. With which money? Without many alternatives, they are forced to rely on intermediaries who collect, transport and sell their products on consignment. Otherwise, keeping production in your possession for possible future better sales is likely to result in waste.

This testimony is neither a rumor nor an urban legend. These data were collected from the voice of hundreds of family farmers in the regions of Bié, Huambo and Malanje. During several visits we spoke directly with the producers and felt their pain when telling stories of the unfortunate reality of the unexploited agricultural potential in the face of an unscrupulous exploitation of the producers’ naivete.

It is obvious that Angolan family farmers are able to produce a variety of crops in quantity and quality on highly arable land. They just don’t know what quality is, what the market is looking for in caliber, maturity point or any of the other quality criteria. The demand that this local production has in informal markets such as Kilometer 30, Cantinton or Kikolo is not demanding. Vendors often proclaim their potatoes as “national” or onions as “the best in Funda”. I am a regular visitor to these markets and every time I am bombarded by friendly invitations to buy a lady’s freshest carrots or ripe, firm and juicy tomatoes at a “good price”.

There is, of course, a lot of value in locally produced plantations! How do we ensure that producers of these crops, which make up the vast majority of informal producers, can get a fair price for their products? How do we guarantee that they can sell all their crops instead of watching them rot? How do we ensure that they grow the right crops in the right quantity and with quality for the right market?

Let us return, then, to Zimbabwe before 1997. This was the time when Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa and the largest exporter of agricultural products, with just over 10% of the total population of Angola. What was so peculiar that made subsistence farmers grow corn and other cereals with confidence, even in quantities greater than their family’s needs?

Did they have more advanced mechanized means? Would they have better transport and logistics networks? Would they have a better climate, better seeds and fertilizers to maximize the yield of their crops? Would they have assistance from extension technicians?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. My late grandmother could only count on renting a tractor for deep plowing… and nothing else. If she couldn’t rent the tractor, the solution was an ox-drawn plow, old-fashioned manual labor. That was the mechanization she had. The soil was also not the best, she had to use fertilizers to correct it and had to rely on rain for irrigation. She did have some help from extension workers. But compared to local Angolan farmers, these were not exactly great advantages. Angola also has extension technicians, Angola’s soils are probably better than those in Zimbabwe and to some extent we have access to fertilizers and mechanized means of working the land.

Does this mean that Zimbabwe producers had access to the market? The answer is a clear yes. My grandmother knew who would buy her corn, the Cereal Market Council. She knew how much corn the council was willing to buy: everything she could produce. She knew how much she would receive per ton of corn even before sowing. The purchase price of corn for the producer was announced before the start of the rainy season. She knew how to transport her corn to the market. There was a central collection point just 3 km away. She was sure they would pay her. She received a check as soon as she delivered the product to the collection center! It was a good system, although it was not perfect. This is where our solution comes in.

The ecosystem of the Kepya platform can guarantee everything mentioned, but in an even better way. Kepya provides not only one buyer but several buyers, literally all in one place: a digital market accessible from the four corners of Angola. Let’s see grandmother Conceição (Angola), who grows tomatoes in Huambo. It can display its tomatoes on the platform at no cost and have many buyers bidding for them. She can even register the tomatoes on the platform before they even ripen. Not only does it have the guarantee of the advertised price, it is also able to offer the best price in a transparent market. She can access transport in her province, consulting one of the many transporters already registered on the platform, and she can even share the cost of freight with the neighboring producer, thereby improving her profit margin. That same carrier can collect the goods at the door of Avó Conceição because her property is referenced by GPS location (a solution that will be adopted for users of the platform). She is sure that she will be paid because the platform guarantees that delivery to the buyer only happens when the value of the transaction is confirmed as paid. The commission she pays for this service is a small cost compared to the peace of mind she gives you. This is Kepya’s value proposition. The commission she pays for this service is a small cost compared to the peace of mind she gives you. This is Kepya’s value proposition. The commission she pays for this service is a small cost compared to the peace of mind she gives you. This is Kepya’s value proposition.

  • Kepya levels the playing field and restores dignity to the many Conceição grandmothers who have been at a disadvantage for a long time as victims of unscrupulous intermediaries.
  • Kepya gives you visibility, access to service providers and suppliers who know exactly what they need, in what quantities and where.
  • Kepya can tell you what grows best on your land and what fertilizers it needs to optimize your yields.
  • Kepya offers training and employment to its unemployed grandchildren who went into exile in Luanda or Benguela in search of subsistence. Kepya empowers.
  • Kepya brings that dispersed family together and keeps them together while cultivating productively for their own good, their village, society and their country And why not think that it will also be for the good of the continent?

Kepya reduces waste. Kepya gathers, Kepya empowers. Kepya approaches to grow.

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