For us, the end of 2016 also marks the end of our journey. We would like to wish you all an excellent happy new year as well as a big thank you for your interest in our project and your support!
As soon as we arrived in the Vietnamese capital, the atmosphere was warm and lively. The succession of alleys where scooters rumble finds an aeration thanks to numerous lakes, place of life and place of meeting, where the youth comes to walk and where the oldests put themselves in tight rank to execute slow and harmonious movements (thai chi - Hanoi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbjdLh8Ox-E). There, gymnastics is an art of living, it’s not unusual to see sellers coming out of their stalls to take deep breaths and perform few small jumps and swinging arms. The air is less oppressing than in Saigon. It’s pleasant to walk around, to discover an old town which is today in full mutation.
It was by a complete chance that we came across this organization, we spotted scooters carrying blue barrels filled with a trash of garbage from street restaurants. After some research, we had the opportunity to meet Jean-Daniel CESARO. During his thesis at CIRAD on the production of pork in Vietnam, he was interested in this collection quite singular. The pig producers in the peripheral region of Hanoi, go to the city center to collect the waste from the restaurants to use it as a feed base for their livestock. The organization of this collection is completely organic and win-win. On the one hand, restaurants can easily get rid of this hard-to-burn waste and breeders buy this food waste at a price well below conventional animal feed. It is thus a very successful model of jugaad organization!
We came back from our journey few days ago, that lasted nearly a year since our feet hadn’t trampled on French soil. This trip was an opportunity for us to carry out a study on the food innovations present in the emerging countries. In South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, India, Thailand and Vietnam, these countries have good ideas and many innovative projects to improve the quality of the food production. New means of food production, innovative agricultural mechanisms and management of exploitation, smart agriculture, water and inputs as well as new channels of logistics, storage and distribution, the subjects covered by our study are numerous and seeks to go beyond the presuppositions. Thus, our study gives a new perspective on the functioning of the food production chain of the countries visited.
We have just reached 1000 followers on our Facebook page, so we take this opportunity to thank all those who followed us during our journey! We will organize events in France in the coming months to share our experiences. The dates are not yet fixed, so if you like our topics: stay tuned!
We are far in the Far East, it will be now hard to go further ... Here everything is flooded land, bamboo and conical hats. A dairy about one month of discoveries through the Mekong Delta and the economic capital of Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, or “Saigon” for short.
Welcome to the country of Bun Bo, Pho and others noodles...
Our few days in Ho Chi Minh City have shown us the face of a modern city, where a well-trained Vietnamese youth hurry on their scooters to reach the latest trendy places and small street bars.
It is on these street terraces that the life of Ho Chi Minh is in full swing. This is placed between two rows of scooters, sitting cross-legged on small stools of 20 cm, where you will have the opportunity to taste Bun Bo, Pho and other Spring Rolls for a pittance.
Although Vietnam has experienced a rapid economic development in recent years - especially in its megacities - it remains a deeply rural country, where agriculture accounts for 50% of GDP and provides two thirds of jobs.
At the same time, Vietnam has many assets to choose from, thanks to successful agricultural reforms in the 1980s, it has positioned itself as a major agricultural exporter. It is especially known for its rice (2nd world exporter), its Robusta Coffee and its Rubber.
Bel Access,"The Laughing Cow" at all stalls!
What a surprise to find on all the Vietnamese stalls products from France! This is the case of the laughing cow (or rather Con bo cuoi)
The banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich, is a dish that has become very popular in this country. There is plenty of choice but one of the most popular one is undoubtedly the banh mi pho mai (include "bread with cheese") which contains “the laughing cow”.
But the surprise does not end there, since this product has fallen into everyday consumption, Bel had the good idea to encourage the mobile sellers of fruits and vegetables to sell also their small portion fresh. This project called Bel Access is really successful. While they are the only ones selling processed products at Saigon wholesale, street vendors crowd every morning at the small stand to buy their dairy product. Who would have imagined?
Aquaponics micro-farm as solution of urban farming
What is aquaponics? Some of you may be familiar with this term, it is the contraction of "aquaculture" (fish farming) and "hydroponics" (cultivation of plants above ground). The idea is simple, creating an ecosystem between plants, fish and bacteria where the waste of one element becomes the food of another element in the system.
So we met Thierry Palass in Saigon, he is an old-fashioned t-shirt designer, freshly reconverted to urban agriculture. Inspired by the technologies of vertical agriculture, he made by himself a vegetable garden on the roof of his textile factory.
This activity takes only 5 to 10 minutes per day, to check the quality of the water, to go around its plants and to feed the fish. This allows it to produce fish, herbs and vegetables without pesticides.
Shortly after our visit, the Vietnamese television also did a little tour in its Eden Garden, here are the images:
After the capital and surroundings, the second part of our trip took place in the north of the country. Situated in a more rural area, it was an opportunity for us to familiarize ourselves with radically different productions compare to our European products in temperate climates. Forget the olives with your pastis and let yourself be tempted by crickets ...
Larvae, worms and crickets soon in your plate!
Larvae, worms, grasshoppers, crickets ... and potentially more than two hundred species of insects that shake the taste buds of thousands of Thais. Previously, only the insects were consumed in the north and northeast of Thailand as a nutritional food to high-content. But in recent years, their use has become more popular in urban areas, including Bangkok.
Producing insects to animal or human consumption address many economic and environmental issues. Indeed, their production is fast and easy to perform, it requires less water and less CO2 compared to beef or sheep production. However the reduction of production costs remains a major challenge especially for animal consumption.
It is worth noting that the importation of insects is now prohibited in the EU area. If you live in this area, you have to wait until January 2018 in order to try to eat a dozen insect species, as "novel food".
But do not imagine that you will come face to face with a whole cricket at the end of your fork! Most of this production will be reduced to powder for making pasta or biscuits in terms of human consumption.Do you think you are ready to eat crickets?
When the plastics bags will be ban in SOutheast Asia?
With his ZeroWaste law, France has taken a huge step by the establishment of a national policy hostile to plastic bags for single use. However, because of the lack of good alternatives and awareness, this punishment law known difficulties to be adopted and respected.
When we were in India, we were surprised by the implementation of a similar law in Bangalore. At the end of our purchases, no plastic bag was distributed. Instead, you could receive cloth bags or craft paper bags. Moreover, people have become accustomed to travel with their own bag and are used to use it.
In 2020, it will be the turn of the disposable plastic tableware (cups, glasses and disposable plates) to be banned. Some universities and industries are thinking about new alternatives. For example: KU Green, a project conducted by Kasetsart University in Bangkok, which manufactures tableware with biodegradable plastic coming from post-harvest residues. It aims, among others, to replace the plates and cutlery of street food restaurants. Additionally, Naresuan University in Thailand tackle the same issue by developing 100% natural plates, made from tree leaves.
Alternatives exist, but they are often more expensive ... Therefore, how bring more sustainable awareness to more users?
"La belle France..."
Did you think it’s possible to enjoy, at the end of a meal, a little fresh goat cheese with fresh bread in the middle of Southeast Asia? Well, to our surprise, in Chiang Mai, it is quite possible! With a small French expatriate community who have decided to share their expertise. You will not have any problem to find culinary experiences “made in France”. This trade works perfectly! Going far beyond the expatriates’ circle, these artisans of the end of the world have opened shops that make recipe!
To all adventurers who want a change of scenery, seeking to transmit their knowledges and experiences, why don’t buy a tailored career in more exotic parts of the world?
We are often surprised by the differences that we notice between Western and emerging countries, in many aspects they seem less developed ... but when it comes to innovation, they are often at the forefront of current issues, with a really different approach. We have every interest to keep our eyes open!
It's now time to take our fly to the last country of our journey: Vietnam!
We have left for few weeks now the spiced indian dishes for the hot and elaborate thai ones. So, when people ask us “ Not too spicy ?”, we’re proud to answer: “We’re used to ! We come from India !”.
Street Food as far as your eyes can see
From the morning to evening, you can find food courts and food stalls everywhere in the streets of Bangkok. It’s hard to not try all the soups, grilled meat and tropical fruits! During meal time, you just have to walk in the street with few baths, sit down at the first stool that you find and enjoy all the Tom Yam Kung, Papaya Salad or Green Chicken Curry.
Street Food is here a true institution and everyone meet there, from busy businessmen in fancy suits to the large crowd of tourists. And when rain is coming ? People will put a large protection above your head so every customers can enjoy the end of their meal !
Discovery of Agrophilia
We were lucky to meet Annabel, founder of Agrophilia, in Bangkok, which is truly a privileged city to meet other travellers. She described her platform as “ a new place on internet, soon on smartphone too, to get agricultural information. Agriculture is today not only a sector for experts but for everyone. People are interested in what they eat and Agrophilia give voice to them. Urban people or rural, professional or amateurs, everyone is welcomed at Agrophilia. Collaboration will push the world forward and YOU will be actors of this change.
Don’t hesitate to like her Facebook page and visit her website.
the Neem oil, a natural way to fighting insects
Neem tree is originated from India and is widely present in South-East Asia. It’s used in Europe for the shadow, and because it’s resistant to drought conditions, it’s used in Sahel in order to fight desertification. One can pulverised Neem oil to stimulate natural defenses of plants and repel insects. It also has an effect on the development of some insects. It’s a perfect product to control insect populations !
Encouraging neem trees plantation could provide us a cheap and natural biopesticide. But careful, if oil is not extract in good conditions, effects can reverse from positive ones to toxic ones.
After we ate pasta made of… crickets* (!!!), we decided to travel to the North of Thailand to study the production chain of edible insects in Thailand. More information in the next newsletter !
*A crazy idea of an italian entrepreneur: Massimo. Discover his amazing products here
After five months in Africa, here we are, back in Asia! It was a great pleasure to meet again India,
its diversity of cultures and beliefs ; its dynamism and effervescence ; its dishes and temples. During this short time, we focused on two areas : Bangalore, the indian Silicon Valley and New Delhi, huge cultural and economic metropolis.
Jugaad on every street corner
As many knows, in India it’s usual to be face to fave to a herd of cows in the middle of the highway, or to go in the wong way with an auto-rickshaw because " it's more convenient ." While India may look like a " huge urban jungle " , this country is full of inventiveness and resourcefulness. It’s also usual to find a fan repaired with a coat hanger, a handle replaced with a string, a plastic bag serving as a hat, a wood board to add a place on a motorcycle ... ( if you want more examples , follow the link)
So yes , the Indians are the most inventive when it comes to repair... but we can still wonder why they do not try to find a more sustainable fix the first time ? Well, simply because the system is far too rigid for a country of 1.3 billions inhabitants and at least as many different behaviors. Like in the really well known tale “the oak and the reed” (La Fontaine), the Jugaad bends but does not break; providing incredible flexibility, it become stronger by its successive changes.
Bangaluru, the indian silicon valley
Bengaluru from the state of Karnataka was our first destination. The place where we decided to spend nearly 3 weeks. Known as the “Silicon Valley” of India, many companies related to biochemistry, IT softwares and aerospatiale industry have established there, taking advantage of the excellent quality of the education (lots of research institute and universities) as well as a good climate. Because Karnataka is also, as everywhere in India, a state where most of the lands are used for agriculture, several start-ups related to Food have been created.
Kimal Kasan is one of them. After her bachelor in Engineering and a trip in India in order to understand what people and especially farmers really need, she decided to design and construct simple and reliable agricultural machines ( like a sugar-canne planter and a mulch layer) to make them affordable. Because irrigation is water and time-consuming and dependant on the time where electricity is available in the village, Kisan Raja proposes to farmers to program through their mobile when to start and stop their watering.
EM3, the uber of agricultural mecanisation
Independance Day: we had been invited by Rohtash Mal, founder of EM3, to come visit him at his home. His idea to fight against the low amount of mechanisation in India? Instead of offering equipments which are difficult to use, buy and maintain, he wanted to provide a service. Therefore he’s currently able to offer the cheapest price for every kind of services, from plowing to harversting thanks to his fleet of machines. Algorithms are here criticals to serve as many users as possible with the less amount of machines possible. More than only meeting an enterprise, we’ve been captived by the personnality of Rotash, a man who took all the risks to launch his activity two year ago. The idea of proposing a service allows to serve faster the farmer and bring him/her easily mechanisation. Is it the start of a new era of agriculture ?
India has been a wonderful playground for us. Like last time we’ve been totally fascinated by this incredible and paradoxal world, where everything can occur just under your eyes !
Senegal, at the forefront of the global warming
Since 70’s, Senegal faced severals droughts. One of the most impacting was in 1973. First victim of the climate change consequences, the country deals with disruptions for 40 years leading to adaptations in the field of agriculture. Consequently, phenomenom such as lack of forrage for livestock or water shortage forced populations to use ingenuity.
Irrigasc, an NGO funded by a french agronomist during the 80’s, created a long plastic duct aiming at help the main root of mango and cashew trees to reach the ground water table more easily. This solution allows to reduce drastically the use of water as well as fertilizer. Furthermore, the solution is affordable (less than 1$ for a duct) and efficient. Indeed, the establishment success rate is about 90%! Another initiative brought by the Kaydara agro-ecology farm allows to create an association between coconut trees and aromatic plants or vegetables. They take advantage of the shadow of the trees but also water brought to irrigate them. Irrigasc, an NGO funded by a french agronomist during the 80’s, created a long plastic duct aiming at help the main root of mango and cashew trees to reach the ground water table more easily. This solution allows to reduce drastically the use of water as well as fertilizer. Furthermore, the solution is affordable (less than 1$ for a duct) and efficient. Indeed, the establishment success rate is about 90%! Another initiative brought by the Kaydara agro-ecology farm allows to create an association between coconut trees and aromatic plants or vegetables. They take advantage of the shadow of the trees but also water brought to irrigate them.
What do we eat today in Senegal?
As in numerous countries in West Africa, in urban areas people often eat Yassa chicken, a traditional dish made with caramelized onions and served with rice, or Tieboudienne. But from where do these products come from ? When you look at the data, it appears that these products are mostly imported.
The government has two choices to encourage local production and reach food sovereignty :
1. Encourage new agricultural practices to improve production of rice, onions and vegetables. In the suburb of Dakar, we witnessed rise of vegetables production, supported by lots of direct-sale initiatives like local markets (Lou Bess Market, ASD Market by ENDA PRONAT), or through the internet (NDougi, TongTong or Soreetul).
2. Encourage people to eat local products like millet, sorghum or nuts. Let’s take the example of the baguette. It’s the basis to eat it with boiled eggs for breakfast or snack. But where does the wheat flour come from ? Yes, you’re right, not from West Africa. But the Institut Technologique d’Agroalimentaire is today able to cook a bread made from local grains like sorghum or millet with the same taste. Aren’t there good news for the development of local sectors ?
the art of living in Senegal
Among all the amazing stories we have lived in Senegal, one was really touching.
The day before “Korité”, end of Ramadan in Senegalese tradition, Fatou, a women working at the Italian cooperation, noticed that we had nothing planed for this equivalent of Christmas. So, with an incredible simplicity, she just invited us to join her family and share a meal under the shadow of a mango tree. It was a wonderful time, when we ate some traditional dishes and talk about our cultures, among this family of 107 people. Fun fact: it’s an honor in Senegal to be served in a different place with only the part of the family who invited you.
Culture is also a thing in Senegal. The first president was a member of the French Academy for litterature, but it’s only the top of the iceberg. Between traditional percussions - played by nomad communities, successor of “griot” - beautiful art crafts, all the colored fabrics on the markets, one can feel a proud culture, celebrating all forms of art !
Senegal, it’s a way of life, which, with the beautiful city of Dakar and the sun, remind us that life is beautiful. As French people, we cannot deny that the presence of baguette have played its part but Senegalese dishes were amazing: you have to taste one time in your life the Thiboudiène, Yassa, Mafé but also Cébon (litteraly: “it’s good”). We leave now for India, this time in the local Silicon Valley: Bengaluru, but also Chennai, to meet the friends we’ve left last January.
Last kenyan newsletter already. A rich trip which fulfilled all its promises. Here is the last innovations before our next step in west-africa and Senegal.
Innovations again and again
The last 2 weeks spent in Kenya revealed few new passionating innovations. One of them deals with soil testing, a big issue all around the world for farmers. SoilCare have had the idea to bring directly the soil analysis to farmers in their village. With a little converted van, they managed to cut dow the cost by 3 and reduce the time from 1 week to 2 hours!
Another discovery is the Milk ATM. In a context of reduction of packages, bring your bottles in order to fill them up with an affordable and fresh milk.
Our works bring us along the Victoria Lake shores where we met Ashton Moturi. This entrepreneur promotes the moringa tree leaves cropping. This tree is renowned for its ease to grow as well as its benefits for health (source of protein and vitamins). Usually used as powder, Ashton plan to make a dietetic drink affordable for people with food deficiencies.
If their should remain only 3 things...
Our trip in Kenya is now ended, let’s see the top remarkable things that we experienced…
Meet entrepreneurs is nice, meet them all together is better!
Our goal is to meet innovators of the changement, ok! But how can we go further with them? During the exchange, we challenge them by giving them a external assessment and a new look on their business. Furthermore, we offer them a visibility by talking about them through our social networks, writing articles and making videos. But what about connect them all together?
As we have seen in Kenya, most of these entrepreneurs are isolated. They start their activity within their community or village. Many of them don’t know their competitors and future partners to grow their busines ... This is why we organized a big meet-up to gather innovators met along our two months in Kenya. For our deepest joy, the exchange was successful! Many business cards were exchanged, some entrepreneurs even spoke of establishing partnerships! After this success, we decided to repeat the experience!
Reaching Kenya was as a dove with clasped hands in the ocean of the East African entrepreneurship. Between our trips in rural Kenya , our two months in our “Auberge espagnole” (Spanish inn) at Kilimani with Tekwane ( Kenyan ) , Lela ( Kenya - Tanzania ) and Janna ( German ) have allowed us to live a sweet blend of culture . We exchanged views through lively discussions around a table where we met every evening to enjoy sukuma wiki, ugali and peas of all kinds! We want to thank you all for your warm welcome and we hope to repeat this experience of immersion, this time, in Senegal. Stay tuned!
Is Nairobi representative of Kenya? Even if we are based in Nairobi, tha last weeks have been dedicated to discover the Kenyan countryside still seeking for the most frugal and disruptive innovations in Food. Let the hunt continues…
The rise in power
During the first weeks in Kenya, Jugaaddict found its feet. The rhythm is now more and more sustained as schedule are full of appointments. Innovation is clearly everywhere in Kenya! As a matter of fact, we have planed to reach over 50 innovations after 2 months! Since our last newsletter, our appointments brought us to Meru, near Mount Kenya, where we have met Ruth who provides access to market to small-scale farmers through Shalem Investments. We also have been to Egerton University at Nakuru where entrepreneurs and students are full of ideas to solve Kenyan food issues. Our stay at Nairobi was also the opportunity to meet the international centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) leading researches about insects like black soldier flies or grasshoppers in order to have a better understanding about their functioning (reproduction, life cycle,...). Very soon, they will be able to find frugal processes suitable to provide large-scale proteins for livestock and human consumption.
Shalem Investments: link
Behind the Tech scene in Nairobi: the amazing Kenyan youth
A famous French author, Corneille, once wrote that value does not await the passing of years, and that’s exactly what we are able to witness here in Kenya. Behind the IT innovations from Nairobi that have been celebrated across the world, we find something that represents truly the future of Kenya. Unable to find it through regular institutions, we found great ideas through databases of innovation challenges. We visited some new projects, sometime so new that they don’t even have a website! What unite this youth is the will to change the society they live in. Let’s take the example of Lilian and Emmanuel (Afrika Jilishe) who spend so much time and energy to improve the livelihood of nomads in semi-arid areas of Kenya. Allan (Just Farm IT!), another entrepreneur, created from scratch, without any funding, grant or support, a SMS platform to support farmers through relevant advises; And what about John (Fresh Box) who has built a low-cost cold room with an innovative business model to avoid food wastage on local markets? We have been impressed by this youth who reinvents the way innovation it’s done here starting in garage or garden with the sole help of their energy and enthusiasm. If you remember how did some of the most innovative companies started, isn’t it the true origin of innovation ?
Just Farm IT! : link
Afrika Jilishe: link
Fresh Box: link
Jugaaddict in Wonderland
Just a few hours from Nairobi in Matatu - teh Kenyan public buses - we discovered the Great Rift: a big scare in the Kenyan plateau. At the bottom, huge lakes transformed in nature reserves full of multicolor birds, shy hippopotamus and agressive rhinoceros! Our adventures have led us in the heart of the Masai lands. Completly lost among huge herds of zebus guided by tall men wearing red checked loincloth. This nomad people live around the biggest natural reserve in Kenya: the Masai Mara, large savane where live giraffes, zebras, leopards, elephants, buffalos and antelopes together.
Our knowledge of the country could not be complete without have been to the port of Mombasa and second kenyan economic place. To keep nothing back from from, we have been very attracted by fine sandy beach! Our flippers and snorkels equiped, we have finally reached magnificient coral reef where thousands of marvelous fishes live.
Dynamic, full of ideas, good or bad, Kenya gets a real will of improvement. The engine of that is without any doubt the youth here to counteract an ambient resignation. Next steps, Kisumu and Kisii close to Victoria Lake as well as a brief come back at Meru and Nakuru. Stay tuned!
Third country for Jugaaddict and second african one: Kenya. Land of the Masaïs, marathonians and Rugby Sevens (!). It’s also the opportunity for us to change our newsletter formula to make it shorter and now readable everywhere!
Welcome to Kenya!
After South Africa, it’s time to explore Kenya! Despite the systematic checks at the entrance of public places because of the recent terrorist attacks, we have discovered a cosmopolitan and dynamic city. As hostels are crazy expensive, we were a little bit worried about the establishment of our HQ at Nairobi. Fortunately, we met Tekwane, a kenyan entrepreneur who opened us his flat and his network. Living in flat-sharing with 2 others mates, we are now ready to explore the whole country!
The Start-Up ecosystem in Nairobi
Our first meetings made us realize that Nairoibi is clearly one of the most dynamic city in Africa ! We have been in touch with active incubators like the iHub, Nairobi Garage or the East Africa Hub hosting the most promising projects. A big part is dedicated to IT that can be applied to food with the example of M-Farm, a start-up providing precious information like prices to farmers in order to give them the power to negociate with the middlemen. E-Prod and Octogon use also the new technologies to solve one of the big issues in Kenya : the record keeping. With their solutions, they are able to provide a rigourous follow-up making the contract between producers and buyers fairer. The region of Nairobi is also a place where you can meet social entrepreneurs. Eden Gold is one of them. Involving farmers to produce amaranthe, they sell it at an affordable price to make everyone have access to the benefits of this medicinal plant especially through hospitals and schools.
The Jugaaddict way of working
Almost 4 months that we started our trip and you know nothing (Jon Snow) about our methodology on the field.
Let’s take Kenya for example:
- 30 days before our arrival we started to look for as many contacts as possible in the field of Food and Innovation through networks and research on the internet in order to set up appointments for our first two weeks in Kenya.
- End of March, we write a complete analysis about Kenya and its food value chain to understand the issues at stake
- Through our first meetings in Kenya, we improve our understanding and build an amazing network. Kenya know that Jugaaddict is here now!
- After that, we meet and analyze as many innovative (or not! We are here to figure it out!) entrepreneurs as possible,
A real and exciting investigation work!
A powerful agricultural nation with feet of clay?
If Kenya is about to be the place for IT in Africa, 70% of the population still need agriculture to live. With horticulture, coffee and tea - which produce more value than tourism - Kenya is a powerful agricultural country.
But behind these attractive figures, many peasants are struggling on smaller and smaller lands. Indeed, the inheritance system conducts to divide farms among all the descendants. As a matter of fact, finding out farmers with around one acre is common and raises viability issues, putting families in serious difficulties.
Another problem is the presence of numerous middlemen between the producer and the consumer. Each of them wants to take advantage of the process taking a margin on the final price. The farmers have generally no power on them and no alternative.
However, Kenya is an incredible laboratory for food innovation for us because of its richness mixing traditions and new technologies.
These examples are just a little sample of the solutions that we met so far. We are already under the charm of this thousand projects city! Next rendez-vous in 3 weeks to tell you more about our discoveries beyond the borders of Nairobi. Stay tuned!
Second and last month in South Africa. After Pretoria and the Coast, team Jugaaddict have continued its journey through CapeTown, the Free State and the Drakensberg.
From Cape Town to Drakensberg through the Free State
Previously, our last stop was in Port-Elizabeth and the wonderful Garden Route. We went just after to the area of Cape Town. Located between sea and mountains - dominated by the impressive Table Mountain - Cape Town is very marked by European influences. The Mediterranean climate allows the development of citrus fruits orchards and vineyards. There is also a major gap between rich and poor. Behind the luxury and prosperity of large estates and hipsters’ areas, there are the poorest townships, especially in the area of Phillipi.
After Cape Town, our trip have continued in through the Great Karoo and the Free State, crossing point between the two major towns of South Africa: Cape Town and Johannesburg. With few arable lands, there are in Free State large livestock farms on huge areas of grasslands with low fodder production. We stopped after in the Drakensberg for few days to enjoy the green landscapes and the country’s highest mountains. Benefiting from a strong tourist attraction, it’s a paradise for hikers. Some areas are also cultivated with corn and soybean despite the strong presence of diseases caused by the humid climate.
Fish Farm - a fish farm in a box!
Cape Town wasn’t only a pleasant place where you can drink good wines, it was also the opportunity to meet people from Philippi at the Philippi Village, an incubator and place where the poorest people may launch their own activity and have access to a library or a computer room. It was the occasion to meet Alan Fleming, an entrepreneur passionned by small-scale farming as well as fish farming.
South Africa is a place where lots of thefts happen everyday and where unemployment represent a huge issue. Consequently, Alan had the idea to set up containers with basins dedicated to fish farming of Telapia. Through this way, productions are safe and allow local people to earn money. The infrastructures are not really affordable without a minimum capital. Nevertheless, the Alan’s idea is to control all the chain value from the providing of inputs to the market access so that he can make his innovation prosperous and accessible to the most. In addition, Alan hopes to recycle fish’s waste for aquaponic purposes. But no hurry! “You need to keep it simple!” as Alan use to say. Definitively, frugal!
ELI - family business for national issues
We have also meet a family business in Somerset West, in the East Coast of Cape Town, called ELI. Fonded in 1996, they began to advise large agricultural farms, in order to train the workforce and to improve their skills and the quality of production. Soon, the need arises to help struggling farms.
Indeed, the end of apartheid also marks the end of a system of subsidies to agriculture and pressurizes many farms. Leonard, one of the family members, realizes that they share weaknesses on 6 common factors: Market, Supply Chain , Technology, Training, Administrative and Financial management and Quality issues. Based on the analysis and resolution of these six factors, he managed to achieve the turnaround of many farms. Thanks to a more systemic analysis, he helped to restore their sustainability.
At the present time the structure is split into two parts: Incubation and Training. Incubation part was established at the request of a farming community, often emerging from reclaim land. It’s based on an ecosystemic analysis in order to help this community to become profitable. ELI is able to stay for periods of 5 to 10 years and create a complete value chain, even the establishment of transformation units. Owners, usually starting without any experiences, are being trained in the same time, from the bottom, to be able to manage the entire chain of his farm at the end of the collaboration.
If it’s hard to consider this initiative as “Jugaad” because it relies too much on the expertise of the founder and conventional farming techniques, we must recognize that the pragmatism and the ingenious approach of this family is a coherent and comprehensive answer to the challenges that South African agriculture is facing today !
LAST MILE FOR BOP - access to social products for the poorest
During our stay at Cape Town we have met Arnaud Blanchet, a French social entrepreneur working in South Africa. After working in France for a year, Arnaud made a one year trip in order to meet social entrepreneurs in more than 23 countries. Rather than create a new product, he felt that the need was to better organize the access to the social products that are already there. Consequently, he thought that the supply-chain needed changes in order to deliver products to the most disadvantaged areas.
By settling in South Africa, he decided to tackle the problem coming from the township. In these areas, “spazers shops” are the most usual way to people to get their supplies. Unfortunately these places are full of junk food. The only place to find healthier food like maize semoule (for the “pap”) and fruits and vegetables is at the supermarket, which is often far from townships for people who don’t have easily access to means of transport.
Now the question is how to create a low-cost supply chain? With his project “Last Mile for BoP”, Arnaud and his partner are currently working with 10 spazer shops (and soon 25) and they plan to raise this to 3000 in 2 years. Their vision is to deliver low-cost social products useful for people as well as healthy and local food. It will create a real local economy which allows people to get wealthier and more independant.
The OAK VALLEY - a fascinating commercial farm
Western Cap was also for us the opportunity to visit a commercial farm named “The Oak Valley”. The vision is radically different from the one you can deal with in France and even in Europe. The century-old estate counts 2000 Ha and more than 300 employees reaching 850 with the seasonal workers - mostly black people - during the harvests. The farm produces apples, wine and flowers. They also raise meat cattle in order to add value to the least accessible and poor lands only good for pasture. In addition, you can find a small free-range pigsty. The estate is also able to take care of the all flower value-chain from the growth through the packing to the transport to supermarkets. In parallel, they have B&B and self-catering activities due to the very pleasant place and weather. We have been very surprised to notice that the place is not only a farm, it is also a real village! Thus, you can cross between the orchards and oaks, accomodation for all employees and even the seasonal workers as well as sports facilities and a crèche!
This visit with one of the managers, allowed us to have a better understanding of an agriculture which represents 80% of the farm lands and 95% of the products accessible in the internal market. They are with no doubt responsible of the food self-sufficiency of the country. Nevertheless, even if some estates got little power because of their size- half of the food production is provided by only 6% of the exploitations -, the other part largely depends on the major distribution chains like Pick’n’Pay or Woolworth for instance which do not give them flexibility and negotiation power.
Export as answer to unemployment?
Throughout our journey , we realize that South Africa suffers from a really high constraint: unemployment. It’s hard to imagine that, despite the power of the economy, 25% of people are unemployed, which is one of the strongest rate in Africa. More than a concern, it is a direct weight for all South Africans, directly affected or not. It don’t feel right to see so many beggars in the streets of a modern city .
This is why most people we’ve met are focused on this challenge and see agriculture as an opportunity to resolve it. Quality and environmental concerns are very low here. Priority is given to economically growth and jobs creation. Export is seen as the key to generate the expected revenue. Indeed, western countries, with their strong domestic market, are asking for tropical fruits in winter, which corresponds to the summer here. Thus, this is an important market for South African agriculture. Other products, like flowers or fish, are also for a high-end clientele mainly based in export.
Let think about this situation. Indeed, if we take the example of France and the Nordic countries, sustainable and local agriculture is becoming a major concern for many citizens. So it seems that there is a contradiction between the opportunity of the european export market and the changing behavior of European consumers. If today the export target markets do exist, it raises the question of sustainability.
Right now, the alternative for export are not the organic farms located in Western Cape, mainly producing for a wealthy minority living in Cape Town and don’t meet the needs of the vast majority of the South African population.
However we had the chance to observe the beginning of many sustainable solutions as Umgibe which create a healthy, safe and affordable local food for the population, Last Mile for BoP or M- Pesa that will help the money to circulate inside the communities and thus to swell the domestic market. Without rejecting globalization, if the local market and infrastructures aren’t initially strong and don’t generate value, it seems dangerous to focus the agricultural system on export.
South Africa wasn’t a gold mine for us. There was a real lack of Jugaad innovation. But this experience have helped us to further develop our thinking and improve our methodology. All the people we have met were full of energy and their interest for our project boost us for our next step: Kenya.