New SA platform secures 270 tons of food for poor households by connecting them with farmers
- South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown restrictions saddled emerging farmers with excess stock.
- A platform developed by Standard Bank, in partnership with non-profit organisation Food Forward SA and AgriTech pioneers HelloChoice, offers farmers an alternative.
- OneFarm Share connects farmers with registered charity organisations to assist feeding programmes in vulnerable communities.
- Piloted in November 2020, the platform has turned 270 tons of produce – originally destined for the waste pile – into 830,000 meals feeding 190,000 people.
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An online platform connecting farmers with feeding schemes has seen 270 tons of excess produce - destined to be destroyed as waste - turned into meals for 190,000 people.
South Africa’s coronavirus-induced lockdown, which closed restaurants, hotels, and some small-scale produce markets created an oversupply and under-demand for fresh produce.
As a result, emerging farmers were forced to plough their vegetable crops back into the land or offload to livestock yards at a loss.
The online match-making solution connects farmers with registered charity organisations to assist feeding programmes in vulnerable communities.
Millions of South Africans were pushed to the brink during the country's lockdown, with mounting job losses and business closures threatening food security. Almost a fifth of South African households indicated that children had gone hungry, according to the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM).
And although large-scale commercial farmers, with steady export streams and existing off-take agreements, were mostly protected from lockdown’s local economic impact, emerging farmers have struggled to get their produce into oversupplied markets.
“The market had a lot of surplus [produce], which was standing and rotting due to the slow movement of vegetables in the country because of the Covid situation,” explains Katlego Meso, an emerging farmer in Tarlton, Gauteng, who grows red cabbages, celery, peppers, and broccoli.
“The market was flooded and for small and emerging farmers it literally cripples you, because you’re sitting with tons and tons of produce and you’re not getting anything for it. Most of it is getting destroyed at the market because it’s just not moving fast enough.”
Recognising the coexistence of these two critical issues – that of oversupply and widespread hunger – a digital platform, connecting overloaded farmers with NPOs managing community feeding schemes, was established to answer both questions in a sustainable manner.
“The need for food relief is greater than ever, with over 12 million South Africans unsure of where their next meal will come from,” says Lungisa Fuzile, Standard Bank South Africa’s Chief Executive.
“Farmers are aware of this need, but feel unable to meet it, without a clear mechanism to manage the requests for donations and an efficient, quick and transparent process to donate food.”
OneFarm Share, which is an extension of a pilot project originally led by Standard Bank in Uganda, is a partnership-based digital solution which has been successfully trialled in South Africa. Since November 2020, 270 tons of fresh produce has been redirected from the waste pile and made into 830,000 meals feeding 190,000 people.
The online platform is based upon a B2B solution developed by HelloChoice which provides both commercial and emerging farmers access to the marketplace by identifying areas of demand.
This has been extended to Food Forward SA, an NPO and accredited Standard Bank beneficiary, which acquires and distributes produce to more than 1,000 registered beneficiary organisations.
“OneFarm Share provides a reliable, trusted channel for farmers and food producers to donate or sell at discounted prices without impacting market prices,” explains Wendy Pienaar, Head of Client Ecosystems at Standard Bank in detailing the value of collaboration with HelloChoice and Food Forward SA.
“Domain expertise, industry relationships, physical infrastructure, established processes and procedures all come together to deliver on the promise to distribute food at lower than wholesale cost.”
Standard Bank’s involvement, through investing in HelloChoice’s AgriTech capabilities and directing millions of rands in Corporate Social Investment (CSI) financing to the purchase of produce, has dramatically increased the capacity to absorb and distribute fresh produce.
Farmers are encouraged to sign-up on the OneFarm Share platform to access area-based solutions which include the handling of transport and logistics in getting surplus produce into the market.
“You feel like you’ve got an adviser at hand without having to pay for it,” explains Siphiwe Sithole of African Marmalade, which supplies cabbages and hubbard squash through HelloChoice’s online marketplace which allows farmers to adjust their prices according to the demand.
“Then, Food Forward would also say that they have people that need fruits and vegetables and the nice thing with the depots is that they would look into what the farmers have. And that’s how we ended up being able to push some of the excess [produce] which we had and reduce the risk of wastage.”
The platform processes produce requests from registered charity organisations and aggregates them onto an online marketplace, matching supply and demand. Once a match has been made, the food will be provided at a reduced cost or as a donation. The platform allows farmers and beneficiaries to arrange harvest, transport and storage logistics.
OneFarm Share also prides itself on providing nutritional fresh produce food baskets, consisting of 24 fruit, vegetable and staple products sourced from 29 farmers.
“OneFarm Share’s vision is to provide healthier food to more people, at the least possible cost, while providing access to new markets for both emerging and commercial farmers,” says Pienaar.
While the OneFarm Share initiative is still in its infancy, operating in limited areas throughout the four-month pilot period, the plan is to scale the programme to include more farmers across several provinces.
By the end of 2021, OneFarm Share hopes to facilitate the acquisition and distribution of 7,400 tons of fresh produce, which will provide 38 million meals to over 1 million people. The platform is also looking to increase its farmer registry ten-fold, to more than 300 suppliers.
“We’re also helping emerging farmers organise better to ensure we are able to procure large volumes of produce from them. Our OneFarm Grow agronomy platform will, when launched in South Africa, assist them in improving yields and increasing their profitability,” says Pienaar of the platform’s potential.
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