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YouthDirect: Bridging Youth <> Agriculture, Shifting Power Dynamics to Advance Prosperity & Safeguard the Future of Food & our Planet

Unleashing youth to drive value chain excellence to shift power, improve prosperity & promote sustainable food systems to protect our planet

Photo of Katie Messick Maddox
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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

The feedback phase clarified key problems: 1 Youth Joblessness & 2 Ageing Smallholders. The obvious solution is to build a bridge for youth to join the agricultural sector. Considering most youth are disinterested in farming, we were thrilled to learn from youth that our initiatives 1 demonstrating there is money in farming 2 providing opps for youth to access funds and share/learn with peers and older farmers & 3 championing youth as leaders in digital tools are driving youth to farming.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Youth joblessness in rural smallholder communities is on the rise. We have the most youth in history living on the planet (1.8b youth). In the next decade 1 billion people will enter the job market. 600 million will not find jobs. This reality is felt acutely in the communities where we work (1 in 6 youth in Kenya is unemployed). Farmers are aging fast. Less than 5% of farmers in rural areas are <35. The average age of farmers in our network is 55. Producer partners are concerned about the lack of young talent entering the sector & significant barriers preventing youth from participating (land, finance, corruption). The rest of the world is starting to realise the significance of this problem in light of growing global populations and increased pressure on sustainable food production. YouthDirect leverages partnerships with Producer Organisations & young people’s entrepreneurial spirits, interest in pioneering tech and commitment to a more prosperous, sustainable, just & peaceful world

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Smallholder communities are facing a myriad of challenges: climate change, pests, price & political shocks, stagnant productivity, limited access/understanding of digital tools, value chain corruption, ageing farmers & lack of young talent, youth joblessness. The few youth interested in farming face an uphill battle with limited: financing, market access (exclusion) & land. With global populations reaching 10b by 2050, smallholder communities are pressurised to produce more with fewer resources.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Our youth-driven solution transforms agriculture systems. We are building bridges from youth to agriculture, promoting prosperity & safeguarding the future of food sustainably. YouthDirect promotes a transition amongst youth from viewing farming as an unprofitable default way of life to viewing it as a profitable enterprise full of potential. Youth are empowered to unite & challenge traditional power structures, promoting youth inclusion & participation in food value chains from the BoP.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

2 yr: 50% increased incomes (youth-owned enterprise w/ $5.1m turnover by 2023); Decreased youth unemployment/increased employability (leading YouthDirect, Youth Agent employment, digital/financial literacy skills); Increased value chain inclusion/shifting power structures; Increased sustainable agricultural practices, Effective use/ownership of data/digital tools. Long-term: Sustainable, just & resilient food system w/youth @ helm promoting replicable model promoting prosperity & food security.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Our idea transformed significantly during various feedback phases, providing opportunities to work with smallholders, youth & partner Producer Organisations to redefine the problem, and then work collaboratively to map out the solution. Expert & Community Coach Feedback challenged us to trust the Human-Centered Design process. It’s been a journey! We are now proud to present YouthDirect - a youth-owned agri-enterprise that gets youth excited about farming. YouthDirect builds a bridge from young people to agriculture and promotes prosperity & safeguards our planet and food’s future. Our solution addresses the challenges our partners outlined: 1 Youth unemployment & 2 Ageing smallholders. It empowers youth to shift power dynamics in value chains from global food/beverage companies to farmers, promoting inclusion and an even playing field. In August, we also received confirmation from our Kenyan partner Producer Org that they’ll provide $50k co-financing to get YouthDirect off the ground!

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

YOUTH NETWORK: In partnership w/ Youth Coordinators & Producer Orgs: 1) Hire Full Time Youth Leaders to manage roll-out, 2) Hire Part Time Youth Agents & provide training in digital/financial literacy, 3) Identify youth &/or youth groups to receive initial disbursement of rotating micro-loans, 4) Youth exchanges (local, national, regional). YOUTH-LED BRAND DEVELOPMENT: Market research, Brand development, Pilot sales (testing youth-led bundling/transport supported by 2Kuze & potentially blockchain) in local markets (coffee, tea, honey, vegetables) (note: processing & packaging led by partner Producer Orgs). DIGITAL TOOLS FOR SMARTER ON-FARM/BUSINESS DECISIONS: 1) Improve analogue & digital record keeping (logbooks), 2) Visualisation testing of farmer-facing dashboards, Scaling 2Kuze (mobile marketplace), 3) Test DLT/Blockchain, Smart Contracts (pro-integrity value chains) 3) Install on-farm weather stations (improve product yields & support climate-smart, sustainable practices).

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

Kenya-based Sylvia Ng’eno & her team lead initiatives locally, managing partnerships w/ Producer Orgs, Youth Networks & 2Kuze. Our Youth Coordinators at Producer Orgs (Emmanuel Tarbe, Carolyne Mutai & Gilbert Misoi) are experts in youth enterprises who’ve played key roles in leading youth initiatives to date. African board members offer expertise supporting smallholders, brand & market development & scaling successful African agrienterprises. Our London team works w/London-based tech partners.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

TOTAL: $250,000; Co-Financing Secured from Cafedirect (staff), Producer Orgs (brand, loans), World Bank (digital) YOUTH NETWORK: $85,000 (youth agents, digital & financial literacy training & scaling out, value chain logistics digital + in-person) ROTATING MICRO-LOANS: $40,000 YOUTH-OWNED BRAND: $40,000 (youth-led design process & research, testing product sales, marketing) DIGITAL TOOLS: $65,000 (record keeping, dynamic dashboards, 10 weather stations, 2Kuze expansion, DLT/Smart Contracts)

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. Pro-Integrity Value Chains - We have expertise in Base of the Pyramid blockchain/distributed ledger technology (David Acton, Bennett Gordon) who are keen to support the development of distributed ledger technologies, including smart contracts, in ways that benefit smallholders and increase traceability and transparency. However, effectiveness depends on this approach being developed within the context of building (a) youth-led supply chain(s), from the point of production to product sale. Recognising the need to build these supply chains from the base of the pyramid to the wider set of actors required to be engaged, we would welcome expertise on strategy to build bridges with this wider ecosystem of actors from the early stages of project design. 2. Linked to the above, we would welcome further ideas on our approach to tech. We are a farmer-owned org & our expertise is in our in-person work w/smallholders & producer organisations, we have entered the tech space because smallholders and youth in our network recognise to improve on-farm profitability (incomes, food security), technology is a necessity. We are wary of tech solutions developed in isolation of beneficiaries, yet open to sharing and learning on blended in-person and tech approaches. 3. We are a nonprofit and entering the social enterprise or hybrid space necessary for the youth-owned brand will be a shift for our organisation and team. We are looking for mentors and support on how to make this transition. We have expertise on our board and in our strategic partner Cafedirect plc, as well as the obvious expertise from our network of 38 Producer Organisations representing a network of 280,000 smallholders, but when it gets to some of the details on the business plan we are seeking external support on product branding, marketing. We anticipate a turnover of $5.1m in the next 5 years, with $30.7m by 2028 (all led in partnership - including co-financing) from Producer Organisation partners.

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

YouthDirect was co-designed with Kenyan, Ugandan & Tanzanian Producer Orgs who host our 4 Centres of Excellence. Until now, our Centres have provided in-person & digital bundled support services to farmers addressing 4 barriers: 1) TRAINING ( adaptation, diversification & financial/digital literacy), 2) FINANCING (enabling farmers to apply lessons learnt on farm), 3) MARKETS (to sell products!), & 4) DATA for smarter decision making. Over the last 8 weeks, our idea has gone through multiple iterations as we’ve worked to incorporate valuable beneficiary, expert & community feedback, while striving to keep our idea simple - yet dynamic & radical - and centered on building a bridge from YOUTH to AGRICULTURE to promote PROSPERITY (increased incomes, job security, employability & sustainable livelihoods) & PLANET (safeguarding the future of food via climate-smart, sustainable practices & replacing ageing smallholders w/ energised youth empowered to overhaul food systems from the base).

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

- CO-FINANCING SECURED for YOUTHDIRECT: During the week commencing 25 July 2018, our Nairobi-based Head of Programmes (Sylvia) and Africa Coordinator (Valerie) traveled to visit our partners at Sireet Outgrowers Empowerment Project (Sireet OEP) in Nandi, Kenya. Their trip had 2 goals: 1) Conduct further research and beneficiary feedback with smallholders, youth and leadership at the Producer Organisation and 2) Share an updated business plan (based on feedback received in Entebbe, Uganda in May 2018) of YouthDirect with leadership and board members at Sireet. We are thrilled to share that we secured $50,000 of co-financing for YouthDirect, to support product processing, packaging, branding, and marketing, as well as pilot testing local sales. This also provided a great opportunity to redefine the problem with smallholder community members, enabling us to refocus on building a bridge from youth to agriculture, addressing youth joblessness in communities like Nandi while simultaneously addressing ageing farmers, which is a significant concern for smallholder families (in terms of food security and incomes), as well as a concern for our Producer Organisation partners looking to ensure they have a sustainable value chain looking forward. The trip also provided valuable feedback on how to improve some of our digital tools including the record keeping App, dashboards and 2Kuze, which we’ll address if funds are secured from this challenge. - CLARITY ON DIGITAL TOOL INCLUSION: We’ve contemplated the role of data/digital tools over the last 8 weeks. We had an enlightening, grounding conversation with our Board Chair Lebi Hudson (who is also the CEO of one of our partner Producer Organisation that hosts a Centre of Excellence, Rungwe Smallholder Tea Growers Association in Rungwe, Tanzania) on 15 August who reminded us that digital tools simply don’t work in rural communities without wider ecosystems of in-person support (provided by our Centres of Excellence and growing networks of Youth). Further, tools are not adopted if farmers don’t see a clear way the tools are improving their farm productivity and incomes. Tools need to solve real, pressing problem farmers face. Thus, our criteria to incorporate digital tools rests on ensuring the tools are: 1) co-designed by farmers, for farmers and respond to pressing needs, 2) accessible to farmers - meaning they are affordable and easy to use in rural communities by farmers with limited digital and financial literacy & 3) Empower farmers & youth to become owners of their own data and learn how to own and lead the very processes meant to support them, protecting rural communities from a proliferation of digital tools and consequent data extraction. Additional conversations we’ve had in recent weeks supporting the inclusion of tools we’ve already spent considerable time co-designing with partners and beneficiaries (i.e. data dashboards, record keeping, 2Kuze, weather stations) includes: 1) Session with David Acton (blockchain expert) in London, UK on 23 July 2018 (with full UK-based team and Sylvia Ng'eno dialling in from Nairobi) to discuss how to pilot test Smart Contracts with smallholders in Kenya and Uganda and other potential roles blockchain or other distributed ledger technology could play to support smallholders; 2) On 31 July 2018 Producer Direct's Information Manager, Sam Webb, shared beneficiary feedback collected for IDEO with our close partners Cafedirect and held a consultation with the company collecting ideas and feedback on our farmer-led data systems and their role as an upstream actor (looking at what data, information) they would be interested in and what they think their customers/buyers would be interested in - looking at supporting Food Trust, while working to shift power dynamics. 3) Session with Fairtrade Foundation 7 August to share and learn on use of data and digital tools to support and empower smallholder farmers, youth/women's groups and producer organisations.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

- One of the greatest learnings over recent weeks was how valuable youth exchanges have been in building bridges from young people to farming, showcasing the key role in-person relationships play in inspiring youth to join the sector. Further, we heard again and again how important ‘seeing it for yourself is’. We were encouraged to learn that not only the youth-youth exchanges (in country and cross border i.e. kenyan youth and ugandan youth or ugandan youth and tanzanian youth) have been successful, but the youth <> older farmers have been positive, demonstrating reciprocal mentoring relationships on both ends with youth learning new skills in farming and older farmers learning how to use digital tools effectively to improve farming practices. We’ve learnt about how valuable social connections are to promoting wellbeing at the household and community level, something a digital tool will never replace. - “Seeing is better than being told” -a KENVO young farmer said to our external evaluators (Picture Impact) about on-farm exchanges. When you see it, then sometimes an idea is triggered, and you think, “why not?”. A youth from RSTGA (Tanzania) saw a small rabbit hutch when visiting Sireet (Kenya) (5 rabbits), and went home to build a rabbit enterprise. She now has 1,000 rabbits. In another example, a young poultry farmer at KENVO while on exchange at Sireet, saw that there may be a market for a different breed of chickens and converted her farm from kenyeji to hybrid Ugandan chickens-she is not only selling the eggs, but is considering the market near Sireet for chicks hatched from her birds, as they don’t have that variety in her area. Further, Gilbert (in videos) is a Youth Coordinator at Sireet. During an exchange he learnt how to very cheaply use local materials to construct a greenhouse and launch a poultry enterprise. He is now growing tissue culture bananas, high value greens (such as black nightshade) in the greenhouse, and a kitchen garden. He currently has a small poultry operation–a few dozen chickens–but is aspiring to have 500. He has also started beekeeping establishing one hive out of local materials, with immediate plans to build 5 more local style hives, and aspiration to establish 100 hives. At scale, these hives would yield approximately 1000 liters of honey annually. Tracking his sales on the Record Keeping App and selling the honey through 2Kuze, directly to Sireet will provide an additional $3,000-$4,000 per year to his family (and allows Gilbert to bypass middlemen). That’s 3-4 times the current mean annual income–representing enormous profit potential. Because of Gilbert’s success and inspiration, his mother has now also diversified beyond tea, and is growing bananas, kale and intensifying her dairy production. Using locally sourced materials, at a cost of approximately $500, Gilbert built her a biogas plant that runs off of the cow’s manure. He uses the slurry to fertilize in the greenhouse, reducing his costs to produce organic vegetables. - Feedback and stories learnt during this phase demonstrated a positive mindset shift happening in our communities as bridges are built from youth <> farming. The key tools to build these bridges include 1 in person exchanges 2 access to funds to apply learnings on-farm 3 exposure to digital tools - including digital and financial literacy. Youth are now seeing farming as a business with a profit potential (not just a subsistence way of life). - Launching YouthDirect is exciting for youth, Producer Organisations and Producers Direct - we’ll all win from working together whilst safeguarding our planet and promoting prosperity one community at a time! Commitments to YouthDirect were recently confirmed when Sireet was the first partner to commit to contributing $50k, our Head of Programmes and Africa Coordinator are in Uganda this week and hope to secure further commitments of co-financing from our 2 Ugandan partners (ACPCU, Kayonza).

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. Although we are in a generation of Peak Youth w/ half the population <30, youth do not view agriculture as a viable (or attractive) livelihood. Corruption permeates the sector, with devastating impacts on smallholders, particularly youth who have limited volumes (& power) to combat middlemen. On average, farmers recover <1/4 of production costs when selling small volumes via middlemen. YouthDirect, a youth-owned enterprise, offers an obvious bridge from youth to farming that 1) addresses youth unemployment, offering youth an exciting opportunity to lead a pioneering agrienterprise, 2) replaces ageing farmers with cohorts of young talent & 3) responds to uneven power structures in food value chains. Working through networks of local cooperatives allows us to deliver a sustainable solution at scale to reach all 500m smallholders & 1.8bn youth. We will work with youth groups to invigorate the sector, getting young people excited about farming as they access farm financing, participate in youth exchanges and receive training in financial & digital literacy to scale-out pioneering tools (Wefarm, 2Kuze mobile marketplace, dynamic farmer-facing dashboards, on-farm weather stations, & on-farm record keeping). Together, we will (1) safeguard the planet & improve food security sustainably, ethically & nutritiously (2) promote prosperity for youth / smallholder communities (3) shift food value chain power structures to the base of the pyramid.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our solution has the potential to inspire systemic change across the entire agricultural 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 2 years: - Youth (18-35) from smallholder communities in Kenya (Nandi), Uganda (Bushenyi, Kayonza) & Tanzania (Rungwe) will launch YouthDirect, providing a viable (& exciting) livelihood for young people. Youth will benefit further from training in digital and financial literacy, opening doors to additional employment. - Older smallholders, families, communities, and Producer Orgs will benefit from identifying successors for ageing smallholders, safeguarding the future of food (& household incomes) sustainably.

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

- Launches a youth-owned food brand, co-financed by local Producer Organisations - Gets youth excited about farming, building a bridge between youth and agriculture/farming successfully - Locally-driven solution; led by farmers, youth & producer orgs, for farmers, youth & producer orgs - Replicable model built to scale organically to safeguard future of food and planet, and promote prosperity globally - Shifts power structures in food value chains from multinationals and middlement to smallholder communities, promoting inclusive food value chains - Uses pioneering digital tools co-designed by partners and key stakeholders smartly (not just for the sake of it) - Unparalleled partnership with local partners (producer organisations, cooperatives & youth groups) - One of few organisations placed to bridge youth to farming/agriculture in an exciting, viable and sustainable way

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. Website:

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 youth JOBLESSNESS across rural communities, and CORRUPTION and a lack of transparency, compounded by political unrest, changing climates, and market shocks. Take the recent maize scandal in Eldoret, Kenya (close to Sireet) that placed cartels and middlemen above smallholder farmers. Corruption and unfair power dynamics are endemic in food value chains, which is why we’ve designed a solution that bypasses middlemen and shifts power balances to the base of the pyramid through a youth-owned, direct trading model that is supported by local organisations. PLANET is influenced by changing climates & increased pressures from growing global populations on food production - oftentimes in unsustainable, harmful ways. PROSPERITY & PLANET are inextricably linked, with both influenced by increased pressures on smallholders to feed the planet, compounded by AGEING FARMERS & 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 Wefarm -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 & access to DevelopmentCheck tool combating corruption, David Acton (blockchain), Champion Agency- providing tech expertise, & Climate Edge - providing on-farm weather stations.

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 who 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/ 4 partner Producer Organisations (cooperatives) in Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda.

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 DeveCheck tool & testing Smart Contracts), 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)

- Transition from experimenting with IoT to launching focused digital tools effectively (i.e. Digital Record Keeping & Farmer-Friendly Data Dashboards). Further, since our last proposal 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. - 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 young people and women in rural smallholder communities. - Commitment to launching a youth-owned agri-enterprise addressing key challenges facing the smallholder communities we work in including: 1) ageing smallholders with limited young talent entering the sector and 2) youth joblessness and underemployment in rural communities. YouthDirect addresses the key challenges facing communities by offering young people and exciting way to become involved in farming, whilst simultaneously safeguarding the future of food and planet sustainably and promoting prosperity as more young people are given a valid (& exciting) reason to remain in smallholder communities!
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Attachments (3)

Workplan - Sheet1.pdf

We've attached a workplan to provide further information to the narrative workplan in the body of the proposal.

Farmer-Led Data System.pdf

Data Flow: We've drafted this visual on the various data that we are aggregating to share back with smallholder farmers and producer organisations, enabling smallholder (and their producer organisations) to make smarter (and more informed) decisions, this is in response to one of the community coaches who asked to learn more about how our data systems are supporting farmers to do better and to share a data flow diagram. Please note, these data systems sit within our wider ecosystem of support.


Join the conversation:

Photo of rush minion

I have had a lot of harvest after watching this article from you! I feel it interesting, your post gave me a new perspective! I have read many other articles about the same topic, but your article convinced me! I hope you continue to have high quality articles like this to share with veryone!

Photo of Leon Buter

Hi Rush

I had the same, this is a strong presentation of a good idea. Two problems brought together to form a new opportunity sounds great! So cool that they have all these big organizations behind them that support them. I really hope the project gains more traction and becomes a success.

Photo of Jasmine Freeman


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Photo of Marnie Glazier

Great focus and great job developing a comprehensive plan and visual map! This project is so timely with the youth population density and potential for real impact. Best to you in going forward!

Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

Thanks so much for your encouraging words, really appreciate it! Cheers, Katie

Photo of Marnie Glazier

Keep up the great work!

Photo of Andrew Drain

Hi Katie, congratulations on putting together such a great team and application. Its inspiring to see emerging technologies being applied in such a meaningful way. I was wondering if you had thought about how transport/freight of produce will work in practice? From my experience this is a challenging aspect of the value chain and may well be why middlemen have become so prevalent. Do you have a plan for creating your own fleet of trucks for transporting produce from farm to market?
All the best


Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

Hey Andrew!

Thanks for your great question!

At the moment, we are transporting via 2 methods: 1) via youth networks who are using motorbikes (the youth are also in charge of remote aggregation/bundling of crops & 2) via partnerships with local producer organisations/cooperatives.

We are currently bundling and transporting small volumes to markets, but the cost savings working through our youth networks are great and they are able to transport more than you'd think on a motorbike.

For instance, young people are aggregating and transporting surplus bananas from smallholders in Nandi Hills, Kenya using motorbikes. At the moment each youth can comfortably transport 4 large bunches of bananas at a time for less than $1 (100 shillings). We have rented vehicles from our partner organisations, but this is much more expensive, especially when looking at low volumes (30,000 shillings/month (about $300) to hire a pickup truck for banana transport).

In Uganda, we are also working through youth networks who are bundling surplus produce/crops at the farm gate and transporting to market. Youth are currently transporting 500 pineapples per week and 20 large bunches of bananas per week. As the volumes increase, we'll continue to look into partnerships and vehicle hire from our partner producer organisations.

The smallholders are earning fairer prices as well because they are able to bundle/aggregate their surplus crops/produce (banana, honey, avocado, pineapple etc.) with other farmers and access markets via the youth, rather than selling limited volumes at the farm gate.

I hope that answers your question and thanks so much for writing and taking an interest. We are still going through many learnings, but fortunately have a terrific network of committed young people on the ground supported by great extension teams and Producer Organisations.



Photo of Andrew Drain

Thanks for the answer Katie, this is really cool! Some good learning here for me to take back to my project too.


Photo of Laura Vermeer

Hi Katie,

The project sounds really interesting and I really enjoyed reading the proposal. I am working for a small London-based peacebuilding organisation and we work a lot with young people throughout our projects so I definitely agree with you on the importance of empowering young people. Well done to your organisation for adopting this approach as well!

I am unfortunately not an expert in branding or marketing but drawing from my experience, I can share a few insights on making sure your project can be as inclusive as possible and include a lot of different actors. A good starting point is to start mapping the actors in the environment you are working in. Once you have a clear picture of what an average community looks like, you can better decide who you want to engage with and develop strategies around that.

You raised a good point when you wrote that you were a bit wary of solutions coming from the outside and being imposed on beneficiaries. I think it will be really important to ensure ownership of the project by young people by making sure they are given the opportunity to feed into the project. Organising initial consultations or a start-up working and making sure you regularly hold feedback sessions/evaluations will be essential to achieve this. If you are able to provide some trainings to young people in financial management or marketing, it might also be a good way to ensure long-term commitment and sustainability of the project, while at the same time further empowering youth.

As you go through the project, it would be good to show impact at any early stage and to collect any material that can be used for external communication (stories, pictures, …). This could be really useful to reach potential partners and build bridges with other sectors.
Hope you will find some of these advices useful and relevant to your work!

Good luck with the project.

All the best,


Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

Hi Laura,

Thanks for your feedback, we really appreciate it! Great to know you are also London-based, it’d be great to to chat with you a bit more about your work with young people! We are working with a few other London-based orgs focused on youth empowerment/Integrity etc. that you may already know/work with, but if not would love to make some introductions (Integrity Action, Restless Development).

Thanks for ideas on stakeholder mapping! Great shout! Our model works through locally based Producer Organisations (farming cooperatives), so we are strategically linked with leadership at Producer Organisations, providing critical insights and local knowledge through the cooperatives, extension teams and our networks of Lead/Promoter Farmers and Youth Agents. A key check we have in place is our board, which is comprised of 6 members (2-UK, 1-Peru, 1-Tanzania, 2-Kenya). As we start to look into new digital approaches (Smart Contract and launching a youth-owned agribusiness), we need to step back again and do further mapping to identify who will need to be involved. This also came up a week or so ago in conversations with our London-based blockchain expert who reminded us we needed to ensure buy-in from everyone in the blockchain to ensure Smart Contracts work effectively.

Stakeholder mapping conducted in May at our Entebbe workshop with Producer Organisation leadership and Youth Leaders from our 4 partners enabled us to do some initial mapping in advance of launching our youth-owned agribusiness. In recent weeks we have hosted visits from TruTrade in Nandi Hills, Kenya who is interested in sourcing avocados from women and youth in our network! We are also having initial conversations with Meru Greens, interested in French Green Beans from Kitchen Gardens. The mapping reminded us to link up with our close partner Cafedirect, to ensure we were in conversation with them about testing the Smart Contracts, as a key upstream buyer.

Yes, we are committed to ensuring all digital tools are designed and rolled-out by users of the tools. We learned this lesson several years ago designing and launching Wefarm (now a separate enterprise, spun off in 2015). One of the greatest challenges with this is timelines, as it takes much longer to develop tools this way, but it really does ensure they are accessible, relevant and usable to smallholders - which is the point! Because we are so closely linked to the communities where we work, we have seen far too many external actors coming in to communities and dropping in digital tools that are not user-friendly & don’t respond to community needs. As you said, we also have a focus on providing a wider ecosystem of in-person & digital support services ensuring all can access and utilise the tools effectively. Based on further feedback received from youth in May 2018 and again during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase, we are now designing additional training sessions focused on financial literacy and digital literacy, as we underappreciated how difficult it would be to access and use the tools effectively in areas with limited exposure to digital tools and data. Our Head of Programmes is now traveling to all of partners to review our newest tools (dashboards, logbooks) to make sure they are user-friendly. I’ve added a few photos from her first trip.

We’ve also done considerable work with Restless Development to design trainings focused on empowering and engaging young people, as well as sensitising community members & cooperative - as it is key to build positive bridges between youth and older farmers, as well as between youth and cooperative leadership to ensure the tools are adopted effectively and the rest of the community respects the youth (who are rolling out the tools and delivering financial and digital literacy trainings).

We just finished our Global Resilience Project focused on utilising pioneering tools to build resilience for smallholders. We did a large data collection in June and received our final external report on Monday the 30th July. You are right - we need to start sharing case studies and impact stories more widely and making links to other sectors so we can replicate and scale-up. As a small organisation (12 of us across 4 countries - UK, Kenya, Peru and Haiti, we definitely struggle to ‘get out the door’ as much as we would like!). I’ll add a few more stories, images and videos to our proposal and share some initial impact numbers as well, as I know support from OpenIDEO and GHR will enable us to scale-up work to date and truly build bridges to improve prosperity, safeguard the planet and transform lives in smallholder communities.

Thanks so much for your thoughts and ideas, Laura - it’s been really helpful to step back and reflect and I’ll get on to our team now to do some more stakeholder and community mapping!



Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

Hi again, Laura! :) Just saw that Peace Direct is around the corner from us - we are by Haggerston Park. If you are up for a coffee on Broadway Market sometime, do let me know, would be great to link up! Cheers, Katie

Photo of Anubha Sharma

Hi Katie,
Happy to read about all the good work you are planing in this correctly identified all important and neglected sector. The lack of attention on improving the status of agriculture is both appalling and dangerous. We need many more like you in this world.

Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

Hi Anubha, Thanks so much for your comment and for reaching out! Yes, I truly hope the wider global community starts to recognise how much investment we must make in the agriculture sector to safeguard the future of food, local ecosystems and incomes for smallholders. Best wishes, Katie

Photo of Gayanjith Premalal

Hi Katie Messick Maddox , Congratulations on getting shortlisted for the refinement phase! It is great to have you on the challenge. This idea is really fascinating. I come from Sri Lanka which was a highly agricultural country a couple of decades ago. But as you have correctly mentioned in your post, the middle men have destroyed the agricultural industry in a way that it cannot stand on its feet again. Recently, the Sri Lankan farmers had to give away their pumpkin crops free of charge or for a few cents because of this corruption. I'm glad to see you trying to find a solution for this, which all our governments failed at.

I see that you are going for a Digital Transformation here and also incorporate data warehousing as well, which is really great! I'm interested about learning more on the other systems in the ecosystem that you are creating. And I would love to see a prototype/working product of the platform you are creating and how it helps the farmers to do better. Or even a simple data flow diagram would be sufficient to understand how your platform works. Very curious and excited to know more :)

Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

Many thanks for reaching out Gayanjith Premalal ! Addressing corruption in the agricultural sector is challenging, especially in a way that harnesses buy-in from all actors.

Our initial work in remote product bundling and aggregation with the digital platform 2Kuze has been effective, yet does place Youth Agents in a role close to that of a middleman (in terms of transport logistics and support linking producers to buyers, registering on the system etc).

Although we’ve not seen or heard of corruption yet, some of the farmers we spoke to during refinement mentioned being wary or unsure of youth’s role, indicating we need to do more to prevent corruption down the line and also to ensure smallholders participating have a transparent view of transactions and all costs (i.e. who pays for breakage/spoilage during transport etc.).

We have been discussing partnership with london-based Integrity Action for the last several months and have identified how we can pilot their DevelopmentCheck digital tool to promote a pro-integrity approach to value chain transparency and traceability. We are also working with London-based leaders in blockchain / distributed ledger technology to devise Smart Contracts from the Base of the Pyramid - and Base of the Supply Chain - starting with smallholders, with a lens to ensuring we benefit smallholders, while also recognising that for this to work we’ll need to engage actors further up the value chain, including middlemen in some cases. With increased pressure on food companies from consumers demanding transparency, traceability and ethically sourced food products, our solution offers opportunities for participating actors to improve Food Trust with their consumers/buyers (an incentive to participate).

We’ve mapped out benefits to various actors as follows:

Smallholder - increased trust in value chain integrity and decreased perception of corruption, increased incomes via shifting power dynamics
Businesses - increased earnings/market share (digitisation and ability to trace products and provide evidence for consumers), leading to increased Food Trust
Public/Government - Improved agricultural sector resilience, profitable and competitive agricultural sector, decreased GDP loss linked to corruption, a replicable model for sustained growth

We’ll also apply the Smart Contracts to our youth-owned brand, which we hope to scale in the coming years to incorporate honey, banana, vegetables/fruits as well as cash crops (coffee, tea, cocoa) - linked to our historical relationships with coffee, tea and cocoa cooperatives.

In sum, yes, we are happy you recognise our approach as a digital transformation, it’s one that is led by and for farmers. What I also wanted to clarify is that we know that digital is not enough, in-person delivery and wider ecosystems of support are critical. Digital does not stand up on its own, which is why we’ve seen little impact from the numerous ICT4Ag tools launched in rural communities across the globe in recent years. Our board members and smallholders we’ve been working with since 2009 often speak of these tools being parachuted into communities with little explanation, meaning the tools are not used.

In the attachments, I added a diagram outlining the various data streams and our goal to create positive feedback loops with farmers, which we’ve not yet mastered due to various literacy levels and limited connectivity in rural areas, though we are working with our vast networks of youth to identify the best solution. The wider ecosystem of support you asked about is linked to our model as Producers Direct, which provides access via Centres of Excellence (hosted by Producer Organisation partners) to: 1) Training (led in person on demonstration sites by Lead Farmers focused on resilience, adaptation, diversification, crop quality/yields), 2) Financing - micro-loans, 3) Markets - in person via youth networks doing bundling/transport to markets and digitally via 2Kuze platform, and 4) Data for improved on-farm decision making. The key data points we are utilising to help farmers make better decisions includes: digital record keeping/logbooks (farmers collecting data on-farm to provide holistic farm views) - covering everything from various micro-enterprises to profit/loss and cash flow; on-farm weather stations providing real-time, actionable information about adaptations; historical satellite data from CIAT to help make farmers make decisions to adapt or diversify on-farm. All the data is aggregated (in an ideal world, we are making progress - slowly, but surely) on our digital data dashboards (using Tableau) and delivered back to Producer Organisations and Smallholder Farmers (via youth agents who have smartphones or tablets that can be actualised on farm or off farm and shared on screen or print out).

I know that is a lot of information, so please let me know if that clarifies (or confuses!) things!


Katie & Team!

Photo of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)

Hello! This looks like a great model that is already making a significant impact. It's incredible that you are able to have such a wide, global reach. Congratulations on all of your successes!

Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

thanks so much for your kind words, we appreciate it! we are able to have such a wide reach and impact because of our farmer-led model delivered by farmers, for farmers and our strong partnership with local Producer Organisations (farming cooperatives) across East Africa and Peru, who own and drive the model forward from the ground up! Thank you!

Photo of Russell Davis

This is a good project and we should discuss you joining our project efforts as we have similar goals and together can do so much more. We have significant areas of technology and innovation that could be shared to help you. Let's talk, My WhatsApp number is +55 82 9 98098700

Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

Hi, sounds great to link up and discuss potential collaboration - can you send an email to and we can find a time to Skype?! Cheers!

Photo of Russell Davis

Hi Katie, I sent an email the other day with my details and request to follow up.

Photo of David MUYAI OTIENO

This is excellent grassroots initiative, supportive and creating the greatest impact at the local level. We work on using smart technology and disruptive innovation @ (, and to bring meaningful change to the community, especially to address the social and economic gap. Hey, let's identify areas we collectively create value and leverage our strengths for even greater sustainability.

Photo of Katie Messick Maddox

Hi - Great to learn that you are also focused on launching smart, disruptive technology - it'd be great to link up and see where there may be potential overlaps or space to collaborate? Can you send us an email at Cheers!

Photo of David MUYAI OTIENO

Sure, I will send contact on the listen email.