“When I asked one grower what difference the project had made to her life, she replied that it was ‘like going to heaven”
Concern Universal (CU) an international non-governmental organisation (INGO), was established in the United Kingdom in 1976. Its vision is a world where justice, dignity and respect prevail for all; its mission is to work in partnership to challenge poverty and inequality. Concern Universal supports practical actions that enable people to improve their lives and shape their futures. CU values human dignity, community focus, integrity and partnership and works in a number of African Asian and Latin American countries.
The organization has two Strategic Objectives. (1) Enabling community-led development –working with people living in poverty to enable them to improve the quality of their lives. (2) Inspiring and influencing others – amplifying the voices of people living in poverty, enabling them to advocate for a fairer and more environmentally sustainable world.
In 2001, Concern Universal (CU), conducted a study on the high-value consumption sector of the horticulture produce market in The Gambia. It uncovered a market failure: smallholder growers were missing out on trade with high value tourist hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets. Despite interest in buying high-quality Gambian produce, these businesses were forced to import produce from Europe and neighbouring Senegal because of unreliable local supply, inconsistent quality, and shortages of produce during the peak tourist season. Meanwhile, smallholder growers had no incentive to increase their productivity and quality because they were part of a captive supply chain dominated by market intermediaries who captured a large portion of the profits.
As a result of this research, CU partnered with the UK’s leading organic fruit producer, Haygrove, in 2004 to form Gambia is good (GiG) with £197,000 in grant seed capital from DFID’s Business Linkages Challenge Fund (BLCF). GiG was designed with the mission to become “a pro-poor, fresh produce marketing company providing tangible economic and social benefits in poor rural Gambian communities by linking them to the main tourism industry.” The project had three objectives:
To use GiG as a catalyst to stimulate a vibrant Gambian fresh produce market that develops local livelihoods, inspires entrepreneurship, and reduces the environmental and social cost of imported produce
To establish the best practice and up-take of low cost, appropriate packing, storing, and grading of fresh produce by small-scale farmers
To leverage technical excellence in horticulture as a catalyst to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor and to replicate the GiG approach in other countries in West Africa
Four years later, GiG has achieved some commendable successes and helped CU win the award for 2008 UK Charity of the Year. Most notably, GiG has been able to mobilise a core group of up to 1000 smallholder growers (mostly women) for off-season commercial production where profit margins are much higher for both the farmers and GiG. Hotels and restaurants have warmly responded to the improvement in consistent availability of produce and quality of local fruits and vegetables during the crucial tourist season from October to April. Furthermore, GiG has assembled a talented and extremely dedicated team in The Gambia, and is eager to take the next step to become a self-sustaining model social enterprise.
Gambia is good (GiG) started as a project that supports local producers to produce quality fruit and vegetables enabling to sell their produce to markets previously inaccessible with the aim of establishing a sustainable pro poor horticulture marketing enterprise and linking smallholder Gambian farmers to the tourist industry and urban markets.
It built on the successes of CU’s agricultural training which has been focused on improving the horticultural sector and marketing of local produce. GiG was initiated through a partnership between CU – the largest development NGO in the Gambia; and Haygrove Ltd – the UK’s leading organic fruit producer.
GiG has since been transformed into a pro poor social business that links poor Gambian farmers to the lucrative market outlets of the country’s tourism industry. As a social enterprise, GiG is an ongoing operation. However, having had considerable success on achieving original objectives, CU considers GiG as reaching the end of the first phase of activities and its institutional development.
Market linkages through GiG have so far resulted in payments totaling over US$ 400,000 directly into the hands of smallholder Gambian farmers, representing more than 600 tonnes of locally grown produce. GiG has to date trained 1,000 Gambian producers 90% of whom are women.
GiG has been recognized as a highly successful national initiative and has won a few local awards.
Among the achievements over the first three years of the project have been:
The establishment of a sound managerial structure for Gambia is Good;
The involvement of about 400 growers, 90% of whom are women. These growers are now receiving a regular income for their produce in a way that was completely unknown prior to the establishment of Gambia is Good;
A production planning/market information system that, via the price mechanism, informs growers which crops to grow at which time of year in order to obtain maximum financial advantage;
A six day a week operation, covering the collection of produce from growers, its distribution and sale including to major hotel customers;
A dramatic improvement in rural livelihoods, with some 4-5,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries. When I asked one grower what difference the project had made to her life, she replied that it was ‘like going to heaven’.
A demonstration farm has been established in addition. This was not envisaged at the time of the BLCF application, but has received financial support from the UK Travel Foundation. This farm is now being visited by groups of tourists, enhancing the profile of Gambia is Good.
In January 2007, Gambia is Good achieved its first profitable month. I understand that the project is now in need of further funding in order to raise its level of operation to a level that enables it to cover the fixed costs of operating the business and so that it can become sustainable on a long term basis. This will include training an additional 600 growers, as well as providing the infrastructure required to service the higher volumes of produce. This should extend the number of beneficiaries, direct and indirect, to over 10,000 people in total.
AGFUND PRIZE EVALUATORS’ COMMENTS:
MS Cathy McGowan
This project has been nominated by the Government of Gambia and involves many partners, notably between Gambian Government, NGOs and businesses in UK. The major players were Concern Universal and Haygrove A leading UK organic fruit producer. I am very impressed by what I have read. It seems to be a well-researched, implemented and successful project. I particularly appreciated the report by the UK MBA students in 2009 and their recommendations & strategies to help the project move from a development to a business structure.
Innovative ways with which the project relates to AGFUND mission, values and objectives and to the theme of the Prize. Targeting women, especially poor rural women is central to the AGFUND values and objectives. The clever idea in this project is to link farmers with tourism and build a business through import substitution. I also appreciated the policy implications of the work and commitment from the Government to its ongoing support.
Contribution of project design to efficient and effective management and to the fulfillment of project objectives. From the reports provided it seems to be a very well thought through project, with regular review and monitoring, enabling adjustments to be made where needed. The communication side of the project also seems to be particularly well designed and implemented.
Degree of relevance of project objectives to the theme of the Prize. Very high. It would be hard to get a more relevant project
Project impact in terms of types of services provided, and access to project’s benefits and services. Again very high. The project worked at multiple levels, individual farmers, communities, tourism industry, research institutes, governement and overseas markets and partners, and it seems that benefits were experienced at all levels. Governments with information to inform policy, tourism industry – up to 40 businesses with fresh, local food, over 1000 farmers involved, research into new products, better distribution and significant increase in product available at the local level.
Participation of target beneficiaries in the process of project design and preparation. This strategy seems to be well developed with participants involved in evaluation, management and policy development.
Project transferability or adaptability to other areas/ countries. From the evidence provided, I imagine that the relationships have been fundermental to the success of this project. Given that similar relationships could be developed in other communities I would think the concept has great applicatin in other countries especially those with developing tourism industries.
Efficiency of financial management and resource utilization and timely implementation. Given the documentation, this project seems to provide excellent value for money with the first stage of the project used Pounds 200,000 and involved 400 farmers – 90% women. Impressive.
Fulfillment of project objectives . Yes –
Sustainability of project activities, benefits and services. The evaluation report prepared by the MBA students in (I think 2009) highlights the difficulties with sustaining the original development model and recommends the adoption of a business model. The letter of recommendation from the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry indicates that this change has in face eventuated.
Environmental and social impact. The social impact has been considerable. I am assuming that the environmental concerns have been addressed in the process, though there is not a great deal of discussion in the submission about this.
Dr. Ibrahim Bani
The Gambia is Good (GiG) was a horticultural sales and marketing social enterprise which was conceived from a partnership between Concern International, an international NGO, and Hygrove Ltd, a leading UK-based horticultural social marketing Enterprise. The main objectives of GiG was to assist small scale Gambian farmers in production of fruits and vegetables that meet the demands of modern day consumers, in addition, to linking them with the lucrative tourism market. The project brings together a comprehensive and multidisciplinary group of partners from various sectors including Concern Universal, Haygrove Ltd, The Gambian Tourism Concern, The Travel Foundation, Njawara Agriculture Training Center, Methodist Mission Agricultural Program, and St Joseph’s Family Farm among many others.
GiG’s innovation stems from the effective marketing strategies and distribution channel provided for small-scale Gambian farmers, effectively bringing together various stakeholders to the table to help local farmers, providing the essential training needed to transition small-scale farmers from subsistence farming to commercial farming. This in return, decreased consumer’s need for imported produce.
GiG is a crucial horticultural social enterprise with tremendous potential since its formation back in 2004. It is also in line with the Millennium Development Goals. However, it is obvious that with this model it is a long and challenging road to transform GiG into independent (self-sustaining) and profitable. In addition, there seems to be a conflict with the identity of the project. The question remains whether GiG is actually a business or a development project?
Summary of Evaluation Criteria: Innovation related to AGFUND mission, values and objectives: GiG is an innovative and internationally recognized social enterprise model that stimulated Gambia’s domestic horticultural sector. This in return, enabled small-scale farmers (especially disadvantaged women farmers) to benefit from Gambia’s lucrative tourism industry. GiG’s vision and mission is in line with AGFUND’s vision and mission. The project reached out to a vulnerable group, enriched them with knowledge to enhance their skills to meet the demands of the modern day labor market, increased their earnings, encouraged entrepreneurial innovation among producers and initiated an internationally recognized pioneering program that diversified the agricultural crop.
Project design and management: GiG is designed as a social enterprise project and utilizes innovative consumer-driven business model. It also brings together a great comprehensive combination of stakeholders from multiple sectors and with diverse expertise. The only major problem I would like to note that they seem to be stuck in the middle between identifying themselves as a business company or a development project. If GiG remains being identified as a development project eventually funders will grow tired of subsidizing important parts of the project and will eventually stop funding. On the other hand, if they decide to be a full-blown business company they will need to start paying sales taxes to the Gambian government amounting up to 30 percent which will effect their survival since it seems like they already have very tight profitability margins. There was not enough information on what measures did GiG establish to effectively manage their multiple stakeholders and beneficiaries.
Relevance to the theme of the AGFUND prize: The GiG project is relevant to the theme of the AGFUND prize. They are connecting small-scale farmers (especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged women farmers) to businesses in the tourism sector and other organizations. This link assisted the growers in gaining new skills and allowed them to access markets for their produce. This in return allowed these small-scale farmers to increase their earnings, diversify their corps, and increase their food production by gaining skills to produce crops at non-typical times of the year.
Project impact: The program impacted around 1,000 growers (indirectly benefiting many more) who are all benefited from having a marketing outlet for their produce and increased their household income. The main impact was inspiring entrepreneurship at the domestic level and diverting consumers from buying international imported produce. The project would have had a greater impact if they had figured out a non-donor dependent enterprise model. Also, more information is needed to know how this project is indirectly alleviating the hunger problem in Gambia.
Relevant beneficiaries: Small-Scale farmers are obvious relevant beneficiaries. It was also noted that90 percent of their beneficiaries were Gambian women farmers. It is important to note that about 80 to 90 percent of the food is produced by women farmers. Women farmers are also known to have very limited access to training, education, and financial services. Women also are usually responsible for their family’s basic needs. Raising the income of women small-scale farmers in Gambia is great. However, it is unclear if GiG intentionally designed the project to specifically target more women farmers or was it an unplanned result.
Transferability/adaptability: Concern Universal is planning to utilize their lessons learned project to replicate this model in two Sub-Saharan African countries. However, there was little specific information provided about these initiatives. Due to the current funding climate it might be difficult to find a funding agent who will agree to fund a project like this without strong sustainability clause.
Efficiency of financial management: This is a relatively large project in terms of the number of stakeholders and direct beneficiaries. Financial management of the GiG project needs to be strengthened to ensure efficient allocation of resources and eventual financial independence. It would have been good to know how much of the money goes to administrative overhead vs. directly benefiting these small-scale farmers.
Fulfillment of project objectives: The GiG project was success in achieving its main objectives including transitioning small-scale farmers from subsistence to commercial farming through improved knowledge, skills and organization.
Sustainability: The project promotes sustainable farming practices. So in these terms, it is beneficial. But, there is not enough or convincing evidence that the project’s model is sustainable (financially). Donor funding will still be needed to provide long-term benefits. Therefore, it is still a donor dependent model.
Environmental impact: GiGs farms promote environmentally sustainable technology and green farming practices so that local farmers and national NGOs have access to working examples of sustainable farming practices. Diverting consumers from international import purchasing and having all the produce come from local farms also lowers the Gambia’s global carbon footprints.
Dr. Urs Heierli
1. The project is very innovative and has created a new market for vegetables in tourist industry and has replaced what was imported.
2. Project will increase income and thus contribute to food security. But growing vegetables has also a direct impact
3. Social enterprise is a good way and is relevant
4. Good inputs for management and training farmers
5. Involving many small farmers, mostly women, is a good thing
6. Good transferability is on the way already
7. So far good impact with little money
8. Fulfilled project objectives
9. Sustainability not yet reached but good prospects