Tieme Ndo Business Challenge – Opportunities for anyone Interested in Starting a Business
I started a social enterprise called Tieme Ndo in 2017. The aim of this enterprise is to supply fertilizer and improved seeds to rural farmers in Nandom at the appropriate time and also train them on the effective and appropriate use of the inputs. My motivation to start Tieme Ndo was because of the situation of my parents as rural farmers. I realized that every year, my parents labored so hard on the farm, but crop yields increasingly become lower. This was because my father did not have the capital to pay upfront for basic farm inputs, such as fertilizer and seeds that could increase the crop yields. I observed that almost all rural farmers were suffering the same fate as my parents. A peculiar trend that has made rural families vulnerable to food insecurity, hunger, poverty and malnutrition.
With a $20,000 support from the D-prize Foundation, a San Francisco based NGO, Tieme Ndo began to change the narrative of rural farmers in Nandom. The enterprise has distributed over 1000bags of fertilizer, seeds and weedicides to more than 400 rural farmers from over 30 communities at Nandom, in the Upper West Region of Ghana. The Average yields gained by a farmer per acre is over 25%. Tieme Ndo has also estimated that 1700 school children will now have food to eat before attending school. A narrative which was rare in the past. The outcome of this situation is that there is now an increased rate of children enrollment in school.
Tieme Ndo has observed that rural farmers are very much determined, ambitious, hopeful, hardworking, resilient and talented like anybody eager for economic success. The difference between the rural farmer and the rich therefore is the support systems available to the rich. These farmers lack the needed capital to enhance their productivity. Human beings at the least are born equal, however, the socio-economic conditions and support systems available to people create these differences in economic status. And this is the issue rural farmers encounter. The support systems are not available, policies and institutions are broken and cannot help them, or give them the enabling environment to thrive in their work. Conventional businesses do not understand the poor and how they spend their meager income. They do not understand how the poor survive on less than $2.5 a day. As a result, organisations find it difficult to develop tailored product and services that are relevant, and still within the means of the poor. Rural farmers have all the potential to progress in life, and to buy all the luxurious things, contrary to the popular narrative. At Tieme Ndo, this is what we see in the rural farmer, which is why we have trusted them with farm inputs on credit. Through this strong credit support system, rural farmers have started challenging and correcting the status quo. They have begun creating for themselves the future they want to see.
Perhaps, the most exciting and fulfilling moments of my life is starting this business and working with people with so much inspiration –rural farmers. It is such a wonderful feeling to see people smile, and hopeful once again, through your efforts. Despite all these interesting experience, many roadblocks have arisen. For instance, from our pilot, a number of challenges stirred at our face and threatened to impede our success. In this article, I state some of these challenges. In fact, I will like to call them business challenges for people interested in starting business.
The Transport Challenge
The first business challenge is the transport service. As farmers, we need transport services from the time of supply of inputs to when the food is put on the table for consumption. At the organisation level, Tieme Ndo could not deliver the fertilizer and seeds to farmers on time because the trucks transporting the inputs broke down several times before getting to Nandom. This business challenge if solved will lay the foundation for the rest of the business challenges to be cracked. It can take trucks close to a week to reach Nandom, instead of two to three days. On the hand, farmers cannot transport fertilizer to their farms, farm produce cannot be transported to their homes and to the market for sale. The most significant challenge is that it is difficult to get a truck to transport produce from Nandom to Accra and other parts of the country.
The business challenge is to design an effective and less costly transport system with the focus on rural farmers to transport their farm produce. Two things to consider are: farmers will be willing to pay a small amount of money to use your transport system and they should be able to use their products as an alternative payment option.
The Market Challenge
The market for farm produce is not favorable to farmers. Prices are very low. In Nandom, Tumu, Lawra, Jirapa and other districts in the Upper West Region, maize is selling between GHC80 to GHC120 per 100kg bag. Which means, if farmers should sell at the prevailing market price, they will lose massively and will not get any returns on their farm investment.
To that, can you create a market for farm produce in which the prices for maize in that market is different and independent on the overall market price of maize in Ghana and possibly the whole world? Can you create a market where prices of farm produce does not change over a particular period of time across districts and regions in Ghana?
The Land Preparation Challenge
Farmers often delay their planting simply because they cannot plough their fields on time. They sometimes have to queue for more than three days just to access tractor services. Some even have to sleep in the fields and are often deceived by most tractor operators. The current price for ploughing is GHC 95 per acre. Can you find an easy and cheap way of helping farmers prepare their lands?
Agriculture is a very risky adventure. Yet, even though rural farmers do not have an alternative source of income, they invest all their little income into sowing seeds without the knowledge of whether the seeds will yield good returns. Their lives and that of their families are at great risk because their entire livelihood depends on the returns from this farm. As such, can you find a way to reduce the risk farmers’ face in every planting season?
These are few of the business challenges facing Tieme Ndo. More pressing challenges are faced by the enterprise, which I will share from time to time. In subsequent articles, I will also dig deeper into each of the above business challenges to expand on the minor yet difficult problems, in order to create a sense of agency to arrive at possible solutions.
Most importantly, we are inviting interested people to take up any of the above challenges. Contact me for more information and further deliberations. I am personally super interested in all the business challenges mentioned above. Furthermore, for people intrigued by the core business of Tieme Ndo – the supply of fertilizer, seeds and chemicals — reach out and let us talk. You are welcomed to play at any stage of the value chain.
Moses Yangnemenga (Founder and Director of Business Administration)