Maano aims to connect millions of rural Zambian smallholder farmers with new buyers of their produce. Maano will do this by:
• Making information on farmers’ supply and buyers’ demand, identity and location visible to everyone through a smartphone application
• Facilitating farmer-buyer discussions and price negotiation
• Facilitating the sale of farmers’ produce through an escrow payment system where WFP acts as the guarantor between farmers and buyers
How it works?
Maano is essentially a combination of stripped down versions of Ebay, Uber and WhatsApp adapted to the needs of rural Zambia farmers and buyers of their produce.
Like Ebay, the farmer can advertise the produce they have to sell on a dashboard that buyers can view. Buyers bid on this produce and the highest bidder makes payment at the end of the bidding period.
Like Uber, Maano uses an escrow payment system: payment does not go directly from the buyer to the farmer. It goes first to the owner of the system (in this case WFP), and is held by WFP until the exchange of goods takes place. Then WFP releases the payment to the farmer.
Like WhatsApp, farmers are placed in chat groups with other farmers from their locality and with other farmers growing the same crops. This helps farmers share knowledge (market price information, transport costs, tips on how to grow their crops, etc.) and is critically important to help farmers organise the bulking of their produce so that they can attract bigger buyers.
When and where is it happening?
Now in Zambia. There is only one rainy season in Zambia, therefore only one harvest, and therefore only one marketing season when farmers can sell their produce: between April and October.
In 2017, Maano aims to work with 50 smallholder farmer communities in four districts in southern and central Zambia.
What does ‘Maano’ mean?
‘Maano’ was the name given to the project by the first group of participant farmers. Maano means ‘intelligent’ in the farmers’ local language, Tonga, which is widely spoken in Zambia.
Farmers explained their choice, saying that “the success of this project depends on farmers’ using their head” and because “the idea behind this project and the technology it uses are clever – we are using ‘smart’ phones!”
Also noteworthy is that the word ‘Maano’ may have ancient origins. ‘Manu’ is a Sanskrit word, which means "thinking, wise."