Eastern Cape’s #Match Making Event hosted by Food for Us and The RMDA
On the 23rd of April 2018, Food for Us, in partnership with the Rayomd Mhlaba Development Agency (RMDA), hosted the Eastern Cape #Match Making event. This event aimed to bring sellers of produce (farmers) and buyers of produce (retailers, restaurants and individuals) together to discuss challenges that exist within the local supply chain and negotiate and co-create solutions. The #Match Making event attracted a wide variety of stakeholders including buyers and sellers of produce, government extension officers, agriculture lectures and students, development agency employees and members of the municipality.
The event started with an opening address from Mr Mali, the director of the Raymond Mhlaba Development Agency, where the participants were encouraged to pursue building strong networks between one another to further improve the local economy and embrace technology and innovation.
Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka started the discussion with a fun activity using Food for Us flashcards, which displayed screenshots of uploaded produce on the application, to introduce ourselves to the group. Each participant selected a flashcards and was asked to introduce him or herself and then try to sell the produce displayed on the flashcards to the audience. This activity introduced the Food for Us application to the participants as well as allowed the participants to see what kind of produce was being loaded onto the application and the kind of information that the application required. This activity was also a fun activity encouraging all those in attendance to put themselves into the shoes of a farmer exploring different ways to market and sell their produce to avoid wastage.
Sarah Jane Durr re-introduced the mobile application to the participants by taking them through a step-by-step process of uploading and buying produce off the application. The screen of a mobile phone was projected onto the wall so participants could follow the process of using the application allowing them to get a real feel for the application. This presentation allowed participants to ask questions, give suggestions and discuss opportunities that may be afforded by the application and its functions in the future.
After a wonderful lunch, with food sourced from the local farmers, Tichaona Pesanayi facilitated group discussions on the challenges of the buyers and farmers within the local supply. Some of the challenges that were discussed include lack of skills, need for improved training, lack of communication between the supply chain stakeholders, lack of consistent supply for buyers and lack of resources for farmers. To further this activity, the groups were mixed up encouraged to come up with solutions to these challenges. To make the activity fun, a competitive element was brought in with groups competing to win a collection of mobile data prizes that would be awarded to the groups who presented the most innovative, implantable and well thought out solution, using the Food for Us application or other technology to solve the supply chain disconnect.
The solutions that emerged were incredibly varied and all very well constructed and presented, Professor Lotz-Sistika and Mr Dongi, logistics manager of the RMDA, judged the solutions presented and awarded one first place and a tied second place and one third place. The winners each received R200 in mobile data vouchers to use to upload produce onto the application or to engage in other technological innovations. The winning solutions suggested that the solution to a supply chain disconnect was to moving towards a agro-ecology form of farming, planting high value crops in an organic manner which could then be uploaded onto the application to be advertised to potential buyers. This solution would ensure that farmers have a market for their produce and less food would be wasted.
The other solutions were equally as innovative with suggestions of databases being established, a local brand being created and continuous training workshops being run for the farmers to improve farming skills and business skills as well as for farmers and buyers to address challenges and misunderstandings between the two communities of practice.
This was an inspiring event where may matches were made between the farmers and buyers who were present therefore encouraging the development of a more sustainable and circular local economy.We look forward to many more successful #Match Making meetings where local sellers and buyers of produce can get together to work towards strengthening the local economy.
Update by: Sarah Jane Durr