Protein for Africa

Protein for Africa: The West African Rice Company

Tormabum, Sierra LeoneTormabum, Sierra Leone
Year Founded:
2011
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

We support farmers transition from subsistence to sustainable farming, by catalyzing access to finance and know-how, seeking to introduce an innovative soil enhancer system of soy-rice production, with rice and soy for animal fed as main crops, boosting protein consumption among the lowest worldwide

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

undernourished villagers have access to high-protein foods while generating an income from it?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The consumption of protein in Sierra Leone is very limited, given the unavailability of domesticated animals (e.g. chicken, cattle), this, in turn, is driven by the lack of domestic and prohibitive cost of imported animal feed. Villagers, a vast majority of whom live on subsistence, resort to the hunting of scarce wild animals as their main source of protein, resulting in heavily undernourished communities and wild animals facing extinction.

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

We introduce soybeans as a crop to farmers, which yields >2x as much usable protein/acre than any other crop. These are a great rotation to rice, adopted by 90% of farmers in the country, as it provides nitrogen to the soil, widely consumed by the rice plant. Protein rich soybeans are bought and processed by us. The Omega-6 rich oil is sold, replacing imported palm oil. The cake is used as chicken feed, bred by farmers, so they generate a new income from the sales of eggs and chicken. Rice farmers use the nitrogen-rich chicken manure as fertilizer, improving their output. The result: more protein available to the villagers, less wild animals hunted, higher agric output and imports substituted with local rice, oil and feed production.
Impact: How does it Work

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

We reach subsistence farmers that are part of a Farmers Organization and have limited access to modern farming resources. A high-tech agric package is provided on loan, so that they can farm their land following sustainable practices, increasing their income 4x. We purchase the beans and take them to our oil press. This oil is sold in the market. The protein-cake is distributed on loan to farmers to feed their chicken and produce eggs. We buy 95% of their production, which we distribute in the cities; the rest is consumed by farmers, increasing their protein consumption. They store the manure safely, which we collect twice a year to distribute to rice farmers, used as fertilizer to increase their rice output, surplus that can be sold to us

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Farmer’ income raises 4x and crop risk is diversified, while soil nutrition is enhanced by the crop rotation. Soybeans require less water, enabling a second season during the dries. In the rains, farmers farm rice under another project sponsored by us. Soy generates a farmer 1,800$ in revenue, with 800$ of cost. The use of chicken manure as nitrogen fertilizer increases rice production 50%, with a value of 200$. This added to their previous income yields a total income of 1,600$, twice the country's GDP per capita. Egg production generates, a different set of farmers, an income of 1,000$ p.a. Soy oil is sold 30% cheaper than imported palm oil and protein cake 40% cheaper than imported feed. These have a potential to substitute over 200M$ of imports in the long run. The availability of cheaper eggs, chicken and soya oil significantly increases the consumption of protein and OMEGA-6.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Farmers are used to grow under-fed chicken and farm rice for own consumption. When soya farming is proven and their income increased, the system will be replicated through FAO ran Farmers Organisations, impacting 5,000 household. Mid-term, the Government will be able to impose duties on imported foods, increasing its revenue, as it will be able to rely on local production. Additionally, protein consumption in rural Sierra Leone will increase, fundamental for a healthy diet and a key step for development. Finally, a success story in profitable farming shall attract much needed foreign investmen
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We connect farmers to our partner Micro Finance Institution to provide them small loans to farm, ensuring they continuously have access to funds. From this project, we have three sources of revenue: sale of soy cake, sale of soy oil and sale of rice. In year 1, these should generate 45,000$, enough to cover for incremental overheads. In Year 2, when cultivated area is increased, the project becomes financially self-sustainable.

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

Poultry feed production locally is limited to one small maize farm, hence poultry growers depend on more expensive imports. We aim at developing an innovative food-system, to produce the animal feed, while producing healthier oil than the imported palm oil, enhancing rice production, at the same time as nurturing the soil with complementary crops. We emphasize social development, prioritizing women and youth employment and seek to reduce the hunting of wild animals in extinction while promoting better dietary practices to reduce acute malnutrition (10% of population) and undernourishment (40%)
Team

Founding Story

On New Year’s Eve in 2010, I proposed my cousin Patricio to abandon our current lives and relocate to Sierra Leone to develop a socially transformative project. He reacted with astonishment, somehow suggesting I lost my mind, especially considering that he was having a job as General Manager in an SME in Argentina and I was having quite a successful career in a German multinational. However, my proposal was a serious one, one that needed to become a reality and one that was a consequence of a deep internal process, to which I knew he was aligned to. I realised agriculture can be transformative after visiting the SL just a few months earlier and seeing how so many people depend on it, not to make a living, but just to stay alive!

Team

Two young well-educated entrepreneurs with experience in Multinationals relocated to SL 3 years ago to manage the company. A Thai expert with 30Y of experience in rice provides the rice know-how, and one Argentine expert that advised 10,000Ha home is the soy farm advisor. Two seasoned entrepreneurs that built the 22 billion renewable energy Masdar Project are also in the board.
About You
Organization:
The West African Rice Company
About You
First Name

Emiliano

Last Name

Mroue

About Your Project
Organization Name

The West African Rice Company

How long has your organization been operating?

Project
Organization Country

, S, Tormabum

Country where this project is creating social impact

, S, Tormabum

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Friends and family, Individuals.

Supplemental
Sector

Improving Nutrition, Opportunities for Women, Inclusive Business, Smallholder Farmers.

Audience: Who have you identified as your customer/recipient groups and do these groups value your solution for different reasons? How do you engage different customer/recipient groups to deliver your solution?

The main beneficiaries are farmers, who can boost their income. They perceive that rice, as a standalone crop is not profitable and actively seek for help to diversify their production. Villagers enjoy the consumption of chicken and eggs, but this is limited given its prohibitive price, given the high costs of production- lack of animal feed. In our 3 year presence in the village, we have successfully engaged farmers in different innovative programs and hence a bond of trust has been built.

Scaling the solution: How would the prize money and publicity help you to achieve your objectives over the next two years?

The skill set acquired at Cambridge will be valuable for the whole organization and I foresee a potential for networking, which may lead to enhancing the knowledge base, idea cross-fertilisation and increasing the fundraising prospects. The prize money will support in covering part of the costs of the soy technical expert, as well as providing some seed capital as Opex for agric inputs. There’s a high interest from development agencies and impact investors in farming, so I envision that the development of a successful proof of concept and publicity will encourage them to supply funds for the project. The model itself is highly replicable, for which it can be scaled up to 1,000 farmers within 3 years.

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

I move to Sierra Leone to start WARC. In three months, we’ve prepared a BP and raised 0.5M$ from angel investors. Since then, we are successfully managing the company and started up two additional projects locally: BioAfrica, a socially responsible biofuel project, and Ayres, a commercial RE company. Both are multi-million projects, aimed at boosting economic growth and social development in one of the least developed countries in the world.

Are you are eligible to attend the Accelerator event in Cambridge and subsequent events in London, UK in January, 2015?

yes

Will you require a visa to enter the UK?

Are you are a current Unilever employee?