Back to the Drawing Board

I have spent the last two months networking and looking for partners for my project. While these activities have been quite insightful, I’m now quite confused. First of all, while I though my project idea was quite innovative, I have recently come across a similar if not identical project that has been implemented in India. The project, which is known as Direct2Farm has been running under the management of CABI for the last 3 years. The good news however is that this project is making over 2 million dollars in profit annually which means my idea of running the project as a profit-making social enterprise isn’t so far fetched. Below is a PowerPoint presentation on the project.

Mobile Plus Chennai, Sharbendu Cabi

I was privileged to meet Sharbendu Banerjee one of the key masterminds of the Direct2Farm project.

After all the networking, I have realized that I need to go back to the drawing board and modify my project. Since there are other similar projects out there, I need to set my project apart from the rest. In addition, I have realized that my project will require the co-operation of multiple stake holders. Currently, this is what my stake holder list looks like:

  • Youth organizations to assist with the mobilization of the youth.
  • State and private agriculture extension officers will be engaged to provide agricultural training through videos and audio conferencing and answer questions from young farmers by SMS and phone calls.
  • Agriculture research organizations such as the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) will be engaged in the creation of a comprehensive database on best agricultural practices in Kenya. This database will ensure that the extension officers provide up to date information during training and consultation.
  • The Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA) will be engaged to provide marketing support.
  • Buyers of agricultural produce will be engaged to provide market for the produce.
  • Manufacturers of fertilizers and other farm inputs will be given the opportunity to market their products to our farmers for a fee thereby making the project sustainable. Such advertisements will be subject to quality control by the research institutions and agriculture extension officers.
  • Telecommunication companies will be engaged so as to ensure that young farmers are able to access SMS and voice support services at a reasonable price.
  • Market Information Systems such as Mfarm will be engaged to provide real-time market price information to farmers.

It could take me 6 months to get into contact with the above named stakeholders leave alone enter into a partnership agreement with them. Even then, I need to plan how and when I’m going to get into contact with them and also decide who among the stakeholders I can do without, at least for the first few months.

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Went to my First Networking Event

On Tuesday April 24, 2012, I attended my first networking event held at the Business Lounge. It was a brainstorming session on youth and employment in Africa organized by The World Bank in collaboration with Africa Gathering. Videos of the event can be viewed at http://www.livestream.com/africagathering/

The sound on the videos isn’t so good because it was raining heavily.

I met Su Kahumbu who is the founder of Green Dreams Kenya Ltd, the creator of iCow and a Ted Fellow.

Su Kahumbu speaking at the brainstorming session

I also met Marieme Jamme, one of the founders of Africa Gathering. She was leading the brainstorming session.

Finally, I was priviledged to have a 15 minute mentoring session with Mj Petroni, the principal at Causeit, Inc. In 15 minutes, he gave me an idea on how I can run a small pilot without necessary spending bucket loads of money. By doing this, I would have something to show to donors and venture capitalists when asking for funding.

My next networking event will be the Third IAALD Africa Chapter Conference on e-agriculture.

In other news, I went and cut off my hair in attempt to free up more time for my project! Now I look like this.