Big Snacks from Small Farmers

Big Snacks from Small Farmers

Thimphu, BhutanThimphu, Bhutan
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Through my farmer's cooperative, I intend to set up Bhutan's first snacks processing unit. In a country struggling to retain smallholding farmers and produce locally, projects like this are essential to ensure our independence, food security and to preserve the traditions of Bhutanese agriculture .

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Recent trends brought on by Bhutan's development are putting its majority smallholding farmer population at risk of living in poverty. Farmers are unable to access technology that would allow them to innovate and produce to scale; modern education is discouraging youth from farming and resulting in the highest rate of rural-urban migration in Asia; and strong demand for cheaper, imported goods has contributed to Bhutan's 89% debt-GDP ratio.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Through our farmer's cooperative, we will set up Bhutan's first-ever organized snacks processing unit. Doing this will address the problem on three levels: First, the cooperative model will pool the resources of 200 farmer members to give smallholders consistent access to markets. 60% of profits will be controlled by farmers and reinvested back into the community to address pressing needs; Second, it will employ 24 educated youth to value-add the farmers' produce and create healthy, organic snacks for Bhutanese consumers. These youth will also go back to the farms and learn the traditions that are being lost; Third, the snacks will substitute for all of the wasteful snack foods that we currently import from big countries such as India.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The snacks processing unit will run through three phases: Phase 1: is the production of raw materials - the vegetables. All 200 of our farmer members will grow and harvest a target amount of vegetables and spices that will lead to the production of three snack items: roasted peanuts, mung dal, and potato chips. Phase 2: These raw materials will be processed into snacks and marketed to local and international businesses. Through the processing unit, we triple the value of the raw items and double the annual income of farmer members. Phase 3: With the profits they collectively earn, farmers can democratically decide how to improve their livelihoods as per their community needs.They can also organize trainings to improve their practices.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

At present, there are three primary players working on promoting rural development in Bhutan: (1) the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), (2) local NGOs, (3) International NGOs. MoA's approach is highly prescriptive and sets up marketing cooperatives that they then manage; local NGOs are often focused more on providing relief (e.g. to poor roofing), and small, one-time grants to projects that lack scope for growth; and international organizations setup systems, such as community tourism, that locals have no ownership of. Ours is focused on full-empowerment of farmers by giving them full-ownership.
About You
Organization:
Happy Green Cooperative
About You
First Name

Sangay

Last Name

Rinchen

About Your Project
Organization Name

Happy Green Cooperative

Organization Country

, THI, Thimphu

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Thimphu

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

When I first started the Happy Green Cooperative in 2011, I wanted to do what I loved doing most - organic farming. With 24 youth that I'd employed, I went back to my village and began mobilizing neighboring farmers to join the cause. Many were excited to join. Our enthusiasm began to fade when, despite our harvest, we couldn't sell our mangoes, carrots, and potatoes in the vegetable markets. The commercial farms in India, which use unhealthy pesticides, were pricing far too low for us to compete with. Disheartened, we began to lose the trust of our youth and farmer members. I thought back to my time in the city and how we could market our products better. I realized then that we need readily value-added, consumable products - snacks.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Sustainable Agriculture, Smallholder Farmers, Supply Chain Micro-entrepreneurs.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

Our 5-month long market trial and testing revealed that urban-dwelling populations in Bhutan - and abroad - would be ready to consume local alternatives to foreign imports. In Thimphu, the capital, we have hundreds of local grocery shops also ready to sell these. Therefore, we will setup our processing unit in Thimphu, and source the vegetables from our three cooperative sites throughout Bhutan. Previously unemployed youth will be recruited and trained to operate the processing machinery.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

To date, the cooperative has employed 8 youths as machine operators, managers, and marketing officers. Remarkably, these youth chose to go back to their villages. Their perspective to farming has changed and they feel they can benefit rural communities through innovative practices.
After almost 3 years, 53 farmer members in two sites feel more secure because they have an assured market. This year, we helped them market 7 tons of carrot, summer squash, and pumpkin (the latter previously did not grow). The increase in income enabled them to purchase a power tiller and motivated them to continue as farmers.
Now, with the purchase of machinery for making and packaging potato chips, we are gaining momentum to our dream of creating a strong local food chain that starts from our farmers. We believe that this project will not only raise their living standards, but give them space in society.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

We have the people, we have the ideas, we have some of the machinery, and we have a tested, proven solution. Now, we need additional capital to setup a processing unit house on the land granted to us by the government. This house will be used to house our employees and produce at least 1,000 packs of snacks per day. We aim to partner with two large domestic corporations to distribute the snacks to all shops and airplanes throughout Bhutan. In tandem, we will expand our membership to other farming areas. Though production and distribution will be centralized, management will be localized through the election of village cooperative leaders. Eventually, we envision entering into more food products, sales outlets, stores, and even restaurants.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

Sustainability is built into the very structure of the Happy Green Cooperative. As a member of the cooperative, farmers will invest their own work, time, and commitment to manage the cooperative's activities and maintain accountability to one another. An annual reserve fund will be kept to ensure the running of capital during bad times. Any farmer wishing to avoid a loan or credit can also apply to the financial board of the cooperative.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

2 years ago, I setup the Druk Organic Growers Cooperative that managed the first organic sales outlet in the capital. The outlet generated ~$280/week for 30 farmers - a margin of profit of 80%. We brokered a deal to sell a weekly package of these vegetables to a local, five-star hotel.
3 years ago, I operated an organic restaurant on a trial basis for 11 months. The restaurant did some catering jobs for the government, but eventually folded.