My name is Charles Muhanguzi, from Uganda, Kampala, 22 years old. I was born and raised in Uganda where I was the only child of the family in a village called Mabonwa, Ibanda district but since my parents were poor farmers they reached a point where they couldn’t fully afford my school fees when I got to secondary but then I worked so hard to in order to get a scholarship, luckily one of the rich men at the village decided to take me on and then got me to a school in Kampala. When I got there, I promised myself that I would work so hard to ensure that my parents get a better life in future.
But then I saw that it would be selfish to help just my parents, there are very many smallholder farming families around the world that are just like my own, because we could grow maize and cassava and sometimes sweet potatoes, since we were a small holder family in most cases we would have our diets dominated by these foods we produced because it was so costly to buy supplementary food but then we couldn’t consume most of the food and market was scarce and it was only in rare instances when we got traders from town to buy our surplus but at extremely low prices. It wasn’t just us facing this but rather the majority of the village.
So that’s how I came to think about microfund, a community-based ecosystem that enables food sharing, exchange & trade among families for food, nutrition & income security because when you look at my just our village as an example, you find that if there was food sharing every smallholder farmer would be able to get almost 85% of the nutrients because we produced different food stuff.
Statistics show that incidence of malnutrition in developing countries is highest among smallholder families. Because of the small parcels of land they depend on entirely, these families rarely produce the full variety of crops they need for a balanced diet or surplus produce for sale in order to purchase what they don’t produce, leading to chronic malnutrition and abject poverty.
With AgMicrofund, we first sensitize these farmers about the importance of having a balanced diet and how being part of Microfund will benefit them and later register them because they are the main customers. So here after getting what they need to consume from their diet, they bring the excess food to our stores we have all in each of the selected communities we work with.
Using our Nutri-system we are able to calculate which food nutrients are needed to make a balance diet, so in exchange with what they have given us we give them a variety of foods according to what they have brought. We get the value of food according to its nutritional value, so for example when a farmer brings maize, he/she may exactly not get back the same quantity of meat because it weighs more according to our Nutri-system. This food exchange helps to fighting the high levels of malnutrition among the small scale farming families.
We also buy their excess they wouldn’t consume at market competitive prices because we partner with major agro-processing companies and other export companies, this would help to stabilize their incomes thus fighting poverty, but still fight food wastage that is so costly to the world.
We also have a microfund USSD system which unlike an app is more accessible to these rural farmers because one does not need a smart phone for one to access, it is compatible with every type of phone. So with this, we are able to obtain our farmers’ information, give them news, and give us a picture of how much produce we should expect because they enter all the information there which is later processed by our computers. But in the future we hope to introduce the microfund app mainly for the urban dwellers so that we can enhance our services and make them better.
To get a very clear picture about AgMicrofund, here is a simple use case from just one farmer:
Jen’s family owns a 1-acre plot that they farm for all their food and household income. They are able to grow only a small number of different crops, which very often don’t fulfil their nutritional needs. Microfund receives some of their produce, processes it into nutritional products and returns these to the family to supplement their existing diet. Whenever the family harvests more than they need, we buy the surplus produce at competitive rates. By receiving different types of foods from many families, Microfund acts as a nutrient redistribution and balancing platform, enabling poor families to access food and nutrients they would otherwise never access if they consumed foods from their own farms alone, thereby ensuring proper nutrition, food and income insecurity.
We are an agro-processing and food exchange platform that receives produce from smallholder farmers in exchange for value-added food products and/or unprocessed food of a different kind. We charge a service fee in form of a small fraction (15%) of the produce received, thereby generating an overall surplus of raw foods that is processed into value-added products sold to the general public. Thus, for farmers in our target communities, we exchange raw produce for value-added, fortified products at a small mark up, and buy surplus produce at market rates. For the general public, we are a food processing outfit.
From December 2015 to January 2016, I together with my colleagues carried out a pilot in Kiruhura district, carried out sensitizations and after sensitizations we realized that people were really fascinated by our service. Using our personal savings of 800 USD, we outsourced most of the services but we did the rest ourselves so we didn’t have any expenditure on labour. We registered a gross income of 1250 USD and working with over 13 farming families after two months which showed great potential for our startup to grow if all our funding targets are achieved.
With the $5000;
- Start working with two districts from different geography locations with up to 50 families.
- We plan to outsource refrigerated food storage stores.
- Outsource two transport trucks
- Buy more computers to help register our farmers, and also help us use the Microfund Nutri System
- Partner with a telecom company to start our USSD system.
- Hire employees
- Buy all the other necessary equipment and pay expenses.
Blogpost and video submitted by Charles Muhanguzi (Uganda) – cmuhanguzi(at)gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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