Micro-entrepreneurship: Côte d’Ivoire
SMS Côte d’Ivoire has launched a micro-entrepreneurship scheme as part of an effort to improve its offering to certify cocoa farmers and their rural communities, and to diversify revenue streams.
The scheme’s purpose is to enable rural entrepreneurs to offer a diverse range of innovative products and services to serve the specific needs of rural communities.
To coincide with the beginning of the 2015/16 crop season, a pilot was launched in five cooperatives in western Côte d’Ivoire with product selection based on specific needs and farming materials: machetes, pruning scissors, files, protective equipment, boots, agro-chemical spraying equipment, and items for rural household needs, like solar batteries, lamps and carbon-minimizing cook stoves.
The project aligns with the strategic approach of SMS Côte d’Ivoire to progressively diversify from its successful training and capacity building model, to an entrepreneurial model, tapping into the business capabilities of its field staff.
SMS selected the first batch of micro-entrepreneurs from lead farmers, who are trained on product usage, maintenance, and sales. They earn commissions on sales to complement a monthly salary for farmer training and follow-up.
In the first six months of the project, $30,000 USD of products were sold to SMS farmers via 270 micro-entrepreneurs, with especially strong interest in innovative products, like solar energy and cook stoves).
Another innovative aspect of the project has been the integration of payment and management of cash flows through mobile money.
For the 2016/17 season, SMS Côte d’Ivoire will expand and identify new entrepreneurs outside of the SMS network, pilot new innovative products, including water filters and the ‘Pelle Bongo’, a specially designed tool for cocoa pod breaking developed through two years of field trials. SMS is also looking to build capacity among SMS staff in the use of mobile technology and plans to design a pilot to channel commodity payments through mobile money.