Maano, means ‘intelligent’ in Tonga, one of the local languages spoken in Zambia. This is name that was given to a mobile App launched by the World Food Programme (WFP) in 2017. The Maano App is a virtual farmers market. Thanks to the App, both buyers and rural Zambian smallholder farmers (SHFs) can increase their profitability and the scale of their businesses.
The App achieves this by enabling a reduction in transaction costs for both farmers and buyers, by simplifying their transactions and giving better visibility to the farmers and produce traded.
WFP is the food assistance branch of the United Nations and the world's largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. Every year, WFP provides food assistance to about 80 million people in 75 countries. In Zambia, WFP buys cow peas and common beans from SHFs, for local assistance as well as for the regional food reserve. WFP realizes that innovation is critical to meet global needs and to deliver on its mandate to end hunger. With initiatives such as the Maano App, WFP is leveraging technologies and digital financial services, such as mobile money, to increase the scale and reach of its various interventions across Africa.
The pilot which run between June and October 2017 showed that the Maano App delivered on its objectives. More than 1,000 SHFs from 29 rural communities in Southern and Central Provinces participated in the pilot, selling more than 150 metric tons of produce (soya beans, bambara nuts, cowpeas and sunflowers) worth more than US$50,000. Following this successful proof of concept, WFP wants to expand the App’s offering to include more crops, more locations and more services and upgrade its payment system.
WFP aims to reach 5,000 smallholder farmers and transact approximately USD $200,000 through the Maano App by the end of 2018. Beyond the current range of crops, WFP wants to promote indigenous pulse grains. To reach this goal, WFP is partnering with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) in Zambia to support the enhancement of the Maano App. The goal of the partnership is to develop a user interface (UI) that is friendly and accessible by a diverse set of farmers and traders, addressing some of the most pressing challenges SHFs face, such as lack of access to markets, financing, transportation and transaction costs.
Jayadeep Akkireddy, Team Leader for the Maano project said, “this collaboration with UNCDF will allow WFP to reach more rural farmers and support them in building resilience in their communities. The proposed user interface (UI) has a much simpler design, more payment options and new services such as climate information.”
The project, which kicked-off in mid-July 2018 with an audit of Maano’s current UI, has made quick progress. In-field research which included interviews and assessment of the current 1,000 Maano users has been completed. The insights gathered were used to develop UI prototypes that underwent multiple rounds of usability testing and iteration before finalization. Application of human-centered design principles not only helped in creating the new UI and workflows that are more user centric, but also helped uncover farmers need for new features that will make the App more robust.
The collaboration between UNCDF and WFP through the Maano project has the potential to accelerate financial inclusion for smallholder farmers as Zambia moves towards achieving the SDG 2 of zero hunger.Farmers using the Maano App, September 2018 . Copyright © UN Capital Development Fund. All rights reserved Zambia