Mission and Vision
Maano-VFM has a huge potential impact to improve livelihoods and food security of vulnerable smallholder farmers through improved productivity and incomes. In Zambia in 2017, Maano aims to engage 50 lead farmers, ‘Maano Ambassadors’, who will aggregate and sell produce for at least 50 of their community members. The pilot KPIs include:
- Number of transactions facilitated by the VFM: 150
- Quantity of crops traded through the VFM (kg): 150,000
- Value of crops traded through the VFM (US$): 60,000
- Number of lead farmers (Maano Ambassadors) trading through the system: 50
- Number of follower farmers registered by Maano Ambassadors: 2500
Beyond improving the livelihood of its participants, the VFM is a sustainable solution contributing to market development and strengthening of local and regional food systems more widely over time. Hence, it is not possible to measure the impact by merely counting the number of users. Investing in solutions that allow smallholder farmers market access has thepotential to improve hundreds ofmillions of livelihoods worldwide. Investmentsin smallholder agriculture can also strengthen rural economies, build moreeffective markets and increase food security and nutrition for those who needit most. Thisis why empowering smallholder farmers to become competitiveactors in global food systems is crucial in our efforts to achieve theSustainable DevelopmentGoals (SDGs)andZero Hunger.
Virtual Farmers Market is an app-based e-commerce platform where farmers’ surplus and buyers’ demand for crops are advertised and traded. The platform provides a transparent, open and trustworthy space for smallholder farmers and buyers to negotiate fair prices and deals.
The first Virtual Farmers Market, called Maano, is currently being piloted in Zambia.
How does your innovation work?
The key functions of the Virtual Farmers Market are:
- Provides information on farmers’ supply and buyers’ demand, identity and location to everyone through a smartphone application
- Facilitates farmer-buyer discussions and price negotiation
- Facilitates the sale of farmers’ produce through a payment system where WFP acts as a guarantor
The VFM platform supports smallholder farmers organized by lead farmers (VFM Ambassadors), to estimate their community’s production and selling price, and advertise this information on the online market. Allowing buyers to access this information and communicate directly with the farmers gives them the opportunity to increase their business by accessing larger volumes of quality produce. As smallholder farmers become more visible to new buyers, VFM increases competition between buyers for farmers’ produce, thus helping farmers get better prices and more favorable marketing options.
Graphics explaining how VFM works is available here
VFM builds onPurchase for Progress (P4P)
, WFP’s flagship programme connecting smallholder farmers to markets.Through WFP’s reputation as a reliable buyer of quality crops, virtual market infrastructure of VFM will help bring together farmers, buyers and other stakeholders.
WFP has a comparative advantage to initiate such a project due to the organization’s reputation as a reliable buyer of quality crops as well as being a neutral or impartial party. WFP also has access to infrastructure and a network of farmers, buyers and other stakeholders which has already been established during the P4P pilot. Thanks to these elements, WFP can provide a safe testing ground to transition toward a sustainable virtual market place.
Planned Goals and Milestones
Through the WFP implementation of smallholder and market access programmes, the Virtual Farmers’ Market has the potential to engage up to two million smallholder farmers across 35 countries as early adopters interested in testing this tool and could eventually expand to benefit many of the half a billion smallholder farmers currently lacking access to reliable market information.
VFM essentially follows the same ‘three-way handshake’ modality used by successful online businesses like AirBnB, Uber and Alibaba. Considering the fast growing revenues of these and other ‘three-way handshake’ companies, this model also has the potential to revolutionize WFP’s work in providing market access and fair business opportunities for smallholder farmers.
VFM would become sustainable through a 5 percent transaction fee paid by buyers on each purchase. Smallholder farmers would not pay anything to use the system, thereby increasing client acquisition and the speed with which the system will have the critical mass of data and users to spur its growth.
WFP will test and implement the Maano app during the marketing season starting in April 2017. Once the first phase of the VFM pilot has been completed, WFP will continue to refine and scale up this promising innovation within Zambia and to other countries.
The VFM business model is designed to become sustainable once it reaches the break-even point after three to five years. Until then, additional donor support is needed to enable future testing in new countries, continued app development and maintenance of the platform.
VFM is currently seeking additional public or private funding, technical assistance, strategic partnerships and access to new markets and countries in which the VFM app can be tested.