At different points in time, various regions globally have experienced agricultural revolutions where food output has grown exponentially, fuelling economic growth and supporting expanding populations. In much of Africa however, this is yet to occur.

Agricultural production is often either geared towards the production of traditional crops low in nutritional value, or towards exporting cash crops like cotton or sugarcane to Europe or beyond, rather than meeting the needs of local people. Farmers in many areas of Africa lack access to quality products that they trust will improve their yields and incomes, as well as knowledge about improved farming techniques and the nutritional value of what they are growing.

Another reason for the lack of certain agricultural activity in parts of Africa is that for suppliers of highly nutrient products, extending their supply chain of these products to remote rural areas is often unprofitable. At the same time, communities as a whole lack understanding of, and access to, key nutrition and health practices, compounding the problems of malnutrition and under nutrition (not getting the energy you need from food).

The Senegal based USAID | Yaajeende (Yaajeende) programme is recognised in international development circles for its unique ability to successfully integrate nutrition development with agricultural programmes on a large scale. During a 2013 visit to Senegal, Yaajeende was showcased to President Obama by Papa Sene, Senior Technical Advisor, at the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA.

Yaajeende aims to improve nutrition in communities while increasing the incomes of local entrepreneurs, known as Community Based Solution Providers (CBSPs). Yaajeende connects these locally elected CBSPs to suppliers of quality agricultural, health and nutrition products. CBSPs are then trained on how to sell these products based on the needs of their communities in addition to commercial activities such as making loan applications to local banks.

To date, approximately 500 CBSPs have earned an income from selling products and services, including seeds, fertiliser, machinery to till soil, nutritionally enriched flour, and livestock vaccinations. The CBSP network is dramatically improving the agricultural output of farmers, and the nutrition of their communities as a whole.

We have been working with Yaajeende since 2014 to scale the CBSP network across Senegal and in time, Africa. After assessing the networks ability to scale, we designed a bespoke social franchise business model, branded as CultiVert, which is currently being piloted in Matam and Bakel, areas in the North Eastern part of Senegal. The ultimate vision is to replicate the impact of CultiVert across Senegal and Africa, improving the health and financial livelihoods of millions.

Hapsatou Kah, is a teacher and entrepreneur from Senegal who’s fighting to end malnutrition in her community. Hapsatou is a CBSP and now a CultiVert franchisee. President Obama recently highlighted her story as being “just one of many that’s a testament to what’s possible when we work together – governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, and civil society.”

Read further for an in depth insight into our work with Yaajeende.

Through our work with ICSF, we have been able to take the first steps towards introducing our dedicated CBSPs to the long term benefit of making the commitment to becoming franchisees. Post project funding, we anticipate that a growing network of trained and certified CultiVert franchises will expand offering quality agricultural, health and nutrition services to vulnerable communities throughout Senegal.

Karl Rosenberg, Chief of Party, USAID I Yaajeende

Source: USAID | Yaajeende
Source: USAID | Yaajeende
Source: USAID | Yaajeende
Source: USAID | Yaajeende

Challenge

Given the positive health impact and commercial success at the entrepreneur-level of Yaajeende’s approach, the CBSP network began to grow organically. However, the quality of services offered by CBSPs varied and there was no plan for long-term sustainability of the network. Therefore, at the end of 2014 Yaajeende asked us to help develop a social franchise business model that could replicate the entire CBSP network whilst improving quality and achieving financial sustainability.

Approach

After confirming the CBSP network was fit for replication, we developed a bespoke social franchise business model and all associated supporting materials such as master training materials, operations manuals, franchisee recruitment plans, legal briefs and additional materials.

The CultiVert social franchise is currently being piloted in Matam and Bakel, where social entrepreneur ambition and community orientation are strong. On-going performance will be measured and monitored closely, building in feedback loops to continually refine the way CultiVert operates.

There are 7 key features of the CultiVert social franchise:

  1. Organisational structure: CultiVert is the franchisor, CBSP’s are the franchisees
  1. Tailored support for franchisees (CBSPs) in:
  • Core franchisee training such as managing supplier relationships and accounting
  • Technical training in agriculture for those wanting to specialise in specific areas like livestock services or irrigation
  • Long term financial and business planning support
  • Supply chain support from product ordering to delivery and storage
  1. Brand: franchisees receive CultiVert branded materials, tools and on-going marketing support
  1. Franchisee quality control: standards and processes are established via training to ensure franchisees provide a consistent, quality service to farmer-customers. Quality is monitored and evaluated via a number of on-going systems
  1. Supplier and product quality control: only suppliers accredited by Yaajeende and products can join the network
  1. Data collection: a mobile phone and/or tablet enabled technology platform to improve monitoring and evaluation, and enhance knowledge sharing across the network
  1. Diversified revenue streams: the franchisor earns income through franchisee fees, training fees, supply chain services, supplier membership fees and product certification

Results

Once the CultiVert pilot is proven successful, the next step is to scale CultiVert into new regions across Senegal. Long term, the hope is to scale CultiVert to other parts of Africa. Spreading CultiVert’s impact across Senegal and to other parts of Africa will give millions the tools they need to increase incomes, grow quality crops and most importantly nourish communities, now and for generations to come.

The long-term view is for CultiVert to become an independent, self-sustaining social enterprise to provide a best practice model for creating financially sustainable, scalable network of small businesses to address health and nutrition through agriculture.