In a small room, two computers sit on a table. A wooden box contains various objects interconnected by cables of different colours. Above the box is a small solar panel. We are in Ndèye Fatou Mboup’s office. Mrs. Mboup lives in Medina, a populous neighbourhood in the heart of Dakar, Senegal.
The young entrepreneur is just 21 years old, passionate about technology, and applies her passion to agriculture. Mrs. Mboup wants to use her skills to address the challenge of storing agricultural products. She is creating, she says, an “intelligent granary.”
The granary will better store fruits and vegetables. Reducing post-harvest losses is important for food security and self-sufficiency. Across Africa, a large percentage of fruits and vegetables rot before they are sold or eaten. Farmers work hard, but due in part to a lack of effective storage, their produce spoils.
Mrs. Mboup made her intelligent granary with recycled plastic. It’s powered by solar energy, which is affordable for farmers. The granary has ventilation and automatic irrigation systems that keep produce fresh. With such a tool, farmers can store their products for a long time before selling them in the market.
But, despite the importance of her innovation, Mrs. Mboup has had trouble selling her product to farmers. She didn’t know how to get her new product on the market. She says, “We can never count on the consumers’ reaction. In addition, an entrepreneur is never sure of anything.”
Mrs. Mboup received support from the UNITERRA program, which is led by the Canadian NGO, CECI, in Senegal. With CECI’s help, Mrs. Mboup now has a clearer vision of her project and the needs of her consumers. Thanks to a training session, she better understands farmers’ needs for storage, and is thus more confident.
She says: “Before, I was scattered. I was not focused on only one type of crop and I wanted to store everything, which is not possible. After the training, I could focus on just one path.”
At first, Mrs. Mboup had planned to make a complex granary that stores all sorts of fruits and vegetables, but this is more costly and less effective. Now, she has changed strategies.
The young entrepreneur explains: “I build the granary targeting one or two products at a time…. And the storage is paid by [the] kilogram.”
When it comes to marketing her product, she will first target the most remote production areas. These are towns that may not have adequate storage facilities or that have a more difficult time accessing markets.
Uniterra is a program implemented by CECI-WUSC, working in Senegal with local partners in the rice, groundnut, poultry, and market gardening sub-sectors to help youth and women access better economic opportunities. The objective is to reinforce the economic power of women and youth by developing their entrepreneurial spirit. The Uniterra program provided funding and technical support for the production of this story. CECI and WUSC are financially supported by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca. For more information you can follow Uniterra Senegal on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cecisenegal.
An early version of the story indicated that she will store potatoes and onions together, but this is not advisable.