With our goal to signup hundreds of smallholder farmers in the farming community just outside of Nyeri, our team had to travel eight hours by bus just to get there. On arrival, we sat down with 10 farmers from our research group to explain our “Bora Trust Score,” an SMS system where farmers text in their farming practices throughout the season to build trust on our platform. Our goal was to get buy-in and feedback from this group. As Tom explained each step of the system, and the respective SMS required, Ashley sent out an example SMS to each member of the group. The immediate feedback was positive and the group felt this was a novel idea. When we asked for questions and concerns, we were surprised at the group’s following comments.
To date, we have assumed that farmers would have some concerns regarding our pricing system or providing us information via SMS. When nearly every person in the room agreed that their biggest concerns was their inability to trust traders rather than the issue of getting low prices for their onions. As it turns out, traders often skim off the top by underweighting products so that farmers give up more product for the market price. After the hard-working farmer is quoted a price by the trader, the trader is then responsible for weighing the onions. Because the onions are harvested and packaged by the trader, the trader has the opportunity to lie about the weight of each bag. Our group told us that a trader will leave with a truck of onions weighing 20,000 kgs for the price of 14,000 kgs. Each farmer was genuinely more concerned with receiving the proper amount of payment than they were with receiving a higher price.
This feedback took a hard shot at the necessity of our pricing system, Onabei, it also showed what farmers wanted most: a trusted transaction with traders. We will now focus more on making sure farmers can use our services to be matched with an honest trader who will pay them the true amount of money they were offered.
We want to maintain trusted, transparent, and coordinated supply chains, the core of what we do at Markit Opportunity. True to human-centered design, our organization will continue to tweak the manner in which we achieve our ultimate goal of improving the lives of farmers. Thanks to the small group of farmers we met, our understanding of farmers’ needs grew from that of getting better prices, to that of receiving fair prices and honest measurements. Our team will have to put our heads together and quickly incorporate these changes into our product offerings.