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Youth Agripreneurs: Promoting Transparency, Advancing Prosperity & Safeguarding the Future of Food

Unleashing the united power farmers & youth to shift power dynamics, combating corruption, unemployment, climate change, & food insecurity.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The future of food is at risk, as is our planet. By 2050 our population will reach 10bn. Food production will need to increase by 70% to match this growth, placing significant strain on limited resources. 500m smallholders are responsible for producing 70% of the world’s food supply, but they are ageing, with the worldwide average 60 years. In the next decade, 1bn youth will enter the job market; 600m of them will not find jobs. And although we are in a generation of Peak Youth with half the population <30, youth do not view agriculture as a viable livelihood.

Corruption permeates the sector, with devastating impacts on smallholders - particularly women & youth who are combating cartels & corrupt middlemen. On average, smallholders recover <1/4 of production costs when selling small volumes via middlemen.

We are offering an obvious, yet underutilised solution: pairing youth & smallholder farmers to safeguard the future of our planet & cultivate prosperity. Working through a network of 38 Producer Organisations (cooperatives) makes us well placed to deliver a sustainable solution (from the bottom up) at scale to reach all 500m smallholders & 1.8bn youth.

We will work through youth groups to invigorate the agriculture sector, introducing young people to our pioneering digital tools (Wefarm, 2Kuze, dashboards/logbooks), while simultaneously providing access to our peer-to-peer bundled support services providing access to: Markets for products, Financing to establish agrienterprises, Training to do this sustainably, & Data to improve decisions. We will underpin our model with Integrity Action’s DevelopmentCheck tool, as we combat corruption in value chains and hold upstream actors account, challenging current power structures.

Together we will Increase value chain transparency & combat corruption; Improve food security sustainably, nutritiously & ethically; Promote sustainable agricultural practices to build resilience; & Increase incomes & prosperity.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The goal of our solution is to inspire systemic changes across the sector, benefiting all 1.8 billion young people & 500 million smallholders who are struggling to provide for their families in the face of limited resources & changing climates, yet are responsible for feeding our planet & safeguarding our natural resources. In the next 24 months, we will empower youth (18-35) from smallholder communities in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, & Peru. Although our focus is on youth & women, we will continue to engage all smallholders to guarantee buy in across smallholder communities, & to gain traction for wider scale. Youth will benefit from accessing bundled support services and specialised training in accessing, using and training peers on pioneering digital tools including 2Kuze (a market access tool developed in partnership w/MasterCard Labs), Wefarm (world’s largest peer-to-peer network) & in-house solutions including farmer-facing logbooks & dashboards. Incomes will increase by 50-100%.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

- Led by farmers, for farmers

- Youth & smallholders are partners, not beneficiaries or targets; Empower youth as today’s leaders, not tomorrow’s

- Identifies nexus between youth & smallholders

- Peer-to-Peer, farmer-led bundled service delivery available in-person & digitally (Market Access, supporting smallholders to bundle remotely & fetch fairer prices, Financing via a pioneering peer-to-peer model, Training in climate resilience/adaptation & quality/volumes, Data for smarter decision making & to hold value chain actors to account)

- Rooted in local systems via Producer Organisations & Youth Groups

- Pioneering digital tools developed in partnership w/farmers guaranteeing accessible, affordable and relevant (digital record keeping; dashboards; DevelopmentCheck tool; Climate Edge weather stations; Wefarm farmer-farmer digital network; 2Kuze digital market access)

- Pro-integrity approach to tackle corruption in food value chains via DevelopmentCheck Tool

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We are Producers Direct, an award winning enterprise led by farmers for farmers; and our goal is to transition small-scale farmers (particularly women & youth) to small-scale business owners via access to digital and in-person bundled support services including access to Markets, Financing, Training and Data for improved on-farm decision making.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

The future of our planet is at risk. Living in an era of Peak Youth provides us with a unique 1-off opportunity to leapfrog development, harnessing the united power of 1.8bn young people & 500m smallholders living on the planet today. We need to work from the bottom up and promote local innovations to address the world’s greatest threats, safeguarding the future of our planet - it’s rich biodiversity & natural resources - and to build bridges to cultivate prosperity for the most vulnerable.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Prosperity is impacted by corruption and a lack of transparency, which is compounded by political unrest, changing climates, and market shocks. Take the recent maize buying scandal in Eldoret, Kenya that placed cartels and middlemen above smallholder farmers. Corruption is endemic in food value chains in the regions where we are working in East Africa and Latin America, which is why we are looking for digital solutions to protect smallholders and to hold upstream actors like middlemen & cartels accountable via increased digital transparency.

Planet is influenced by changing climates & increased pressures from growing global populations on food production - oftentimes in unsustainable, harmful ways.

Prosperity and Planet are inextricably linked. Both are influenced by increased pressures on smallholders to feed the planet, compounded by aging smallholders & an unemployment crisis facing youth, placing the future of food, planet & prosperity at risk.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We work through a network of 38 Producer Organisations (POs), which is why our team of 12 (across Kenya, Haiti, Peru, & the UK) has such a large impact globally. In Africa, we will work via our partners: Sireet OEP in Nandi Hills Kenya, a cooperative w/ 6,000 smallholders; Kayonza, a cooperative w/ 7,000 members; ACPCU a cooperative w/ 8,000 members; and RSTGA, a cooperative w/ 15,000 members to roll-out & test our solution across our network of established Centres of Excellence at each Producer Organisation.

We will also work with global partners including Wefarm - the world’s largest P2P digital network (initially a Producers Direct project), Restless Development - expert’s in youth-led development (who we have worked with to improve youth engagement at Producer Organisations), Integrity Action - promoting transparency and access to DevelopmentCheck digital tool combating corruption, and Climate Edge - providing on-farm weather stations accessible to smallholder farmers.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

-Partnership w/ 38 Producer Organisations, 7 Centres of Excellence in East Africa & Latin America
-Engaged group of Lead Farmers demonstrating 50% increase in incomes, 90% increase in volumes, 87% diversifying into new agrienterprise
-Network of Youth Groups (>700 youth) trained in digital tools, participated in cross-border exchanges to empower next generation of farmers (led w/ partners Wefarm & Restless Development)
Effective use of digital tools (logbooks, dashboards, 2Kuze, Wefarm)

Geographic Focus

We will work w/ partners & Producer Organisations (cooperatives) in East Africa & Latin America.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

We will need 24 months to empower the next generation of agripreneurs & promote transparency in food value chains. 24 months provides time to bring together various global partners at the start and close of the project to share lessons learnt, while providing adequate time to scale up/focus current components (at more advanced stages) & test/pilot newer components (layering Integrity Action’s DevelopmentCheck tool on our model), promoting increased transparency in food value chains.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • Yes

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

We transitioned from experimenting with IoT tech to launching focused digital tools effectively (i.e. Digital Record Keeping & Logbooks & Farmer-Friendly Data Dashboards). Further, since our last bid we won the World Bank’s Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development, enabling us to form new partnerships with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and Climate Edge. Further, we are on the verge of completing our 24-month Global Resilience Partnership (funded by USAID, SIDA & Rockefeller Foundation) initiative, developing digital tools to promote supply chain transparency & to build resilience for smallholders, which is providing key lessons learnt as we look forward and take our initiatives forward.

Rebrand from Cafedirect Producers Foundation to Producers Direct, showcasing our direct relationship with smallholder producers and our transition to working with a diverse network of smallholders, particularly youth and women.

We have inverted our model and farmer journey to focus on access to: 1) Markets 2) Financing 3) Training & 4) Data. We are prioritising Market Access for specific products, followed by Financing and Training tailored to these products, rather than focusing on prioritising Training. To support this transition, we are also piloting Co-Branded Product Sales with our partner Producer Organisations (focused on honey, banana, tea, and coffee). Product sales will support the long-term sustainability and resilience of our partners and our organisation as we look to transition to a hybrid. We are focusing on empowering youth in focused agrienterprises and providing market access for these young people, equipping them with the digital tools to succeed and combat corrupt upstream actors by aggregating products remotely.

A renewed ability and focus on combating value chain corruption and promoting transparency via digital tools and partnership with Integrity Action, committed to holding upstream actors to account.