Employee Spotlight – Elisha Rugambwa
In this month’s edition of the employee spotlight, we will be featuring Elisha Rugambwa as he shares his insights on sourcing locally and the impact it has on the communities AIF operates in. Elisha joined AIF in 2017 after working for organizations such as Plan International where he spearheaded an initiative to support 9,000 young people, giving them access to viable household economic activities, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) where he steered his team to achieve a 20% increase in yield with a 7.4% reduction in post-harvest losses through their work with smallholder farmers.
“In 2017, I felt ready to take my career to the next level while focusing on thematic areas that I’m truly passionate about such as rural social-economic development. And so, AIF was the logical next step in my career.” Explained Elisha on his choice to join AIF.
Why is local sourcing important to AIF?
Sourcing locally is an integral component of AIF’s mission due to the far-reaching socio-economic impact it affords in terms of support to the local economy and improved standards of living along the value chain.
Supply Chain Flexibility & Reliability
The local supply chain is reliable due to the strong relationships we have been building with local suppliers, this allows us a measure of control in dealing with challenges that might arise along the way. Sustainable and scalable sourcing is critical to our operations hence the need for rock-solid relations with the farmers we work with especially locally.
Greater Control over the supply chain
The further away you are from elements of your supply chain, the less control you have over them. With local suppliers we can conduct face-to-face visits, address any concerns in a timely fashion, and ascertain that the raw materials they are supplying meet AIF’s rigorous standards.
Reduced Supply Chain Costs
Weighing the costs of sourcing locally against sourcing elsewhere in the region, there is of course a glaring difference with the local option being more affordable. So, in essence, we spend less simply by localizing our supply chains.
It’s good for the environment
Localizing our supply chain represents a tremendous opportunity to help the environment. Reductions in shipping and storage contribute immensely to bringing down emissions and energy usage.
What are the current statistics around the raw materials we source locally?
We’ve made considerable headway with our efforts to increase the volumes we source locally, there’s a clear contrast between the sourcing we are doing today and what was being done in 2017. Volumes increased from 3,500MT in 2017 to about 14,000MT in 2020.
Rejections also dropped from 90% in 2017 to 5% in 2020, while the number of farmers we work with increased to 45,000 (of which 47% are women). The farmers we work with get premium for their yield and this increases their motivation to keep improving their practices to provide quality yield.
AIF adopted a new sourcing model dubbed the “cob model” in which AIF in collaboration with its stakeholders undertakes most of the post-harvest activities alleviating the burden from the farmers. As a result, 83% of the volume sourced in the first season of 2020 was on cob versus shelled grain.
What measures are being taken to ensure we source more raw materials locally?
Teamwork: There is still more that can be done to help the local supply chain, the AIF team works tirelessly on and off ground to ensure we keep the current trend going and growing. Smooth collaboration and coordination go a long way towards the achievement of our overall goal – eradicating malnutrition through the production of nutritious, fortified foods produced from locally sourced raw materials.
Cob model: The cob model has eliminated major quality challenges – particularly aflatoxin – otherwise forcing premium buyers like AIF to rely on imports instead of local sourcing. As a result of the “cob model”, local rejection rates for AIF have dropped from 90% to under 5%, and not only provide market security to farmers, but also boost their income due to reduced post-harvest costs, reduced losses, and access to premium pricing
Relations: The size of our team increased from 20 to 42 field agents. This increased our presence on the field and improved our relationship-building with cooperatives and local government units to ensure high-level coordination of maize sourcing.
Partners: In collaboration with our partners; Vision Storage Facility, ENAS, and Kumwe Harvest, we increased our processing capacity in order to increase our support in that regard to the farmers we work with.
Quality Control: On-ground quality control at the field level combined with other measures in the cob model enabled us to bring rejections down to 5% as of 2020.
What challenges do you meet when it comes to sourcing locally?
This is no different from any other operation and we do have our fair share of challenges. Quality compliance still remains an issue with shelled grain, which is why we source on a cob basis at the moment.
Another notable issue has been contract commitment by farmer cooperatives, some are still not fully realized. Naturally, with any undertaking that depends on climate forecasts, there is the unpredictability of the weather and climate that affects the yield and understandably our production.
Covid-19 came with its own set of challenges, especially due to the control measures that ensued. These made it challenging for our field team to reach farmers as some parts of the country went under lockdown.
What future plans does AIF have with regards to sourcing locally and reducing the hurdles it encounters in the process?
As I mentioned earlier, we are always on the lookout for ways to smooth the sourcing process over and work out the kinks in the operation. We are working on a few approaches that might help us source more efficiently.
_Establishing a transport unit at AIF to ensure efficiency in logistics for local sourcing.
_Use of a mobile application to streamline local sourcing and ensure proper record keeping, well-coordinated logistics, and planning improvements.
_Re-working on our efforts to improve quality control and assurance on the field and at the processing sites by decentralizing our lab.
_Coordinating different interventions and partners to improve maize yields through availability and access to inputs and extension services
_A pronounced presence of AIF team on-ground to improve loyalty among farmer cooperatives
_Integrating more sourcing channels such as working with so-called middlemen/local traders instead of working against the competition – this channel was piloted and illustrated good results
_Improving our service delivery to farmers more especially payment and granting processing capacity for their produce.