Moringa: unlocking the potential of agriculture in Africa
Improving lives through the moringa tree. Connecting the dots between the untapped value in moringa, farmers growing it, and global consumer
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Ghana: Greater Accra, Eastern Region, Ashanti, Volta, Northern Region, Brong Ahafo, Upper West and East.
Yampoka and the sister trying moringa oil. When we started purchasing her moringa seeds, Yampoka’s family found much needed financial freedom through what was once goat feed and waste product. She used her profits to pay for her children’s school fees and supplies, basic household necessities, and future income generating investments like hired tractor services to plough her field for further cultivation. She told us, “I am seeing changes in the lives of myself, my husband, and children.”
Mr. Manu is New Longoro Farm Manager. He is in charge of all the operations in New Longoro where MoringaConnect has its organic farm and leaves processing facilities.
Some of the moringa-powered cosmetic products under our brand True Moringa.
Abena is one of the women farmers growing moringa in North Volta.
Seth is one of the moringa farmers by the Volta lake. Seth is the Assembly Man in his community and has encouraged more farmers to also cultivate moringa.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
In Ghana, over 50% of the population is engaged in agriculture yet the majority of these live on less than $2/day. Limited resources, poor access to agro-processing technologies, lack of farming best practices, and a disconnect from the global market keep farmers from utilizing their abundant land and indigenous crops to their full potential. In addition, more than 20% of children are stunted (chronic malnutrition) and as much as 37% of children are stunted due to childhood malnourishment in the Northern regions.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
MoringaConnect’s mission is to improve lives through the moringa tree- a crop known locally as ‘the miracle tree’ for its nutritional, medicinal, and economic value. Starting in Ghana, we’ve built the first vertically integrated supply chain to improve farmer livelihood and turn their underutilized moringa seeds into clean beauty products under our award-winning True Moringa brand and their moringa leaves into nutritious beverages and snacks under our Minga Foods brand.
We connect farmers to the technical training and agriculture inputs they need to grow moringa well; teach them how to integrate moringa leaves into their everyday diets combating rural malnutrition; serve as a guaranteed market for the seeds and leaves, increasing their incomes by 4x-10x; produce moringa seed oil and leaf powder using a proprietary process in Ghana;
and distribute our products wholesale and under our retail brands in Ghana and for export to seven countries.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
We measure our impact using the following KPIs:
Quantity (direct): Number of farmers
Quantity (in-direct): Number of farmers and family members
Economic Impact: Income provided to farmers
Environmental Impact: Number of trees planted
Since Q4 2013, we have provided over $465K in income to farmers growing moringa, turning an underutilized backyard tree into a viable income source, planted ~500,000 trees and created over 76 jobs along our supply chain in Ghana, giving young people the opportunity to find purposeful careers in agriculture. Currently, we have operations in nine out of the ten regions in Ghana, impacting the lives of over 2.800 smallholder farmers, which improves the livelihoods of the ~11,200 people that make up their households. We’ve earned over $610K in revenue and have signed contracts for over $1.5M in revenue 2018 and a backlog of potential customers that would bring in an additional $4M in 2018 revenue once install more production capacity to meet their orders
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
We generate revenue through the sale of our moringa seed oil and moringa leaf powder wholesale to cosmetic and food companies respectively and B2C under our brands.
We’ve earned $610K in revenue since becoming operational at the beginning of 2014 across sales in the USA and Ghana. We grew revenue 2x from 2014-2015, 4X from 2015-2016, and 1.5x from 2016-2017. We have contracts for $1.5M in 2018 revenue and a backlog of order inquiries that would generate an additional $4M in 2018 once we invest in additional machinery.
We have profitable gross margins (40-90%) across wholesale and retail products. We have relationships with Aveda and Birchbox and are cultivating partnerships with Target, Whole Foods, Sephora, Blue Mercury, and Ulta to grow the distribution of our retail brands.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
We are the first vertically integrated supply chain for moringa, turning would-be competitors into collaborators - we supply moringa to major natural brands (i.e. Kuli Kuli, Axiology, Greenvines, Aveda). Our agronomy practices decrease harvest time by over 100%, our proprietary processing systems create higher quality moringa, and with the launch of Africa’s largest moringa farm this year, we are uniquely poised to introduce moringa to the mass market, increasing farmer incomes by 10x.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
I’m a Ghanaian-born, MIT-trained rocket scientist turned social entrepreneur. I've gone from aerospace to agriculture, because I believe there’s far too much value in rural Africa for smallholder farmers to be the poorest demographic in our world. In 2012, my co-founder Emily and I learned about the moringa tree, called the miracle tree for its nutritional and medicinal values. The seeds contain an anti-aging, moisturizing oil that outperforms argan, coconut, and shea oil. Aid organizations had planted the trees as part of afforestation campaigns but failed to provide a market for farmers and training on how to correctly consume moringa leaves. We realized that by connecting the dots between the underutilized value in moringa, smallholder farmers, and global demand for moringa-powered products, we could sustainably develop rural communities and combat malnutrition across the tropics.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details
Our model is best understood exploring our value chain from farm to consumer: Akosua Krah is a mother of four, widow, and one acre peanut farmer in New Longoro, Ghana. She attended a community meeting run by MoringaConnect’s extension officer, where she learned about how the moringa tree in her backyard could become a source of 4-10X her income. She enrolled at the end of the meeting, was interviewed to confirm her past farming experience, her land was GPS mapped, and she received technical training and seedlings to launch her a one acre moringa farm. Her relationship with MoringaConnect is formalized with a signed contract guaranteeing her a market for the seeds and leaves from her trees and a yearly bonus. In 3 months, Akosua harvested her first yield of moringa leaves and in 12 months her first moringa seeds. By year five she will be earning about $5000 from her one acre farm. Her leaf produce is processed into leaf powder and seeds into oil at MoringaConnect’s factory in Accra. The powder is packaged for bulk sales to food brands and into a tea product branded Minga Foods. The oil is packaged for bulk sales to hair and skin care companies and into a retail line of oil serums branded True Moringa.
We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.
We do not merely support farmers, but value them as they constitute the backbone of our value chain. By signing contracts with farmers we guarantee them a stable and fair price to the raw material they produce seasonally, and the support (technical and financial) they need to maximize their output. Overall the profit generated by moringa multiplies by 4-10x small scale farmers income. Moringa is harvested during the dry season providing additional income when agricultural production drops consistently, resulting in decreased income for families and food shortages. Additionally, it can resist long periods of droughts, and at the same time favor the growth of other crops. Moringa is a tree crop that can equally be identified as cash and subsistence crop, hence cutting across gender patterns in agricultural production, too common in West Africa. Women are early adopters as they have used it for generations as food supplement and medicine. We encourage women to become moringa outgrowers and when possible assign them land they work on as ingrowers. We also promote consumption of moringa in the communities we operate, especially among breastfeeding mothers as it increases milk production, prevents anemia as well as combat malnutrition and stunting.
Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
Ultimately, we have created a world powered by moringa. A world where we:
-lift farmers from poverty to middle income, earning $2K+ per acre they cultivate with us
-improve the nutrition and personal care of our farming families and customers through our moringa-powered products
-afforest communities deforested by charcoal production and extractive industries
-we create jobs for young people in agriculture by processing our ingredients at source in Ghana; changing the narrative of African commodities exported raw to the West and East before any value addition is done
-turn our waste after oil extraction into a high protein meal for human and animal feed and into a unique natural flocculant for wastewater treatment and water purification
-have built a sustainable and scalable social enterprise powered by products with profitable unit economics
We’ve proven this world in Ghana and look to partner with Nestle to scale it across the tropics and sub-tropics where moringa grows.
How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?
Historically our operations have been funded as follow:
Convertible Note Investment 35%
Revenue Received 27%
We have more demand than production capacity and human resources so we are currently raising $1.5M in debt to finance a scaled up factory, install additional processing machinery, and working capital. We are also raising $1M in grants/revolving 0% debt to provide planting inputs, tools, and irrigation to support 6500 farmers and plant 5M trees in 2018. This injection of capital puts us on the path to breakeven by Q12019. From there we will fuel our growth using earned revenue with injections of capital (equity investments and working capital lines) to launch new product verticals and expand across Africa.
How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?
MoringaConnect’s vision is to create a world powered by moringa where smallholder farmers improve their nutrition and incomes through the moringa tree, and consumers globally enjoy moringa products daily.
We will achieve this by sustainably commercializing every part of the moringa tree and creating a replicable model that allows smallholder farmers to diversify their income streams.
This model allows food, beverage, and personal care companies to easily and sustainably integrate moringa as a hero ingredient in their products. We have already piloted this model in the beauty space with Aveda, and see the CSV Prize as the perfect opportunity to enter and scale in the food industry in partnership with Nestle.
How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?
Nestle investment will be used scale our impact in smallholder impact and nutrition.
Onboard 6500 new farmers in 2018, providing planting inputs, agricultural extension support, and guaranteed market access.
Building on the success of our pilots in Accra, we aim to scale the reach of our nutritious food brand Minga Foods to peri-urban and rural areas, creating 100% made-in-Africa, healthy packaged snack foods for the BOP. We will leverage partnerships we have cultivated with Ajinomoto, Peace Corps, and other experts in food and nutrition.
This growth will feed our investments in machinery and allow us to meet the >$5M of moringa oil and leaf powder demand we have in 2018.
Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?
MC has two main strategies to scale impact:
Guarantee supply of raw material and leverage market price of moringa in order to prevent price shocks. This will be achieved by expanding the numbers of outgrowers and expand nucleus farm production capacity
Franchise our vertically integrated model throughout the developing world wherever moringa or similar underutilized botanicals grow
Projected impact by 2020
Plant over 46 million trees
Successfully launch BoP snack/RUTF product providing improved nutrition to >100,000 women and children
Provide >$8 million in income to over 20,000 farmers
Employ >1000 people across our supply chain
Net margins >30% and earn at $50M turnover in 2020
Support and source from farmers in at least three other countries
Distribute our retail branded products in at least three African countries and expand distribution from North America into Europe and Asia.
Launch products in R&D from our processing waste in the flocculant space:water purification
Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?
MC currently employs a total of 76 employees of which 37 full time divided between admin/sales/finance, production and field operations. Executive management is composed of the two co-founders: Kwami Williams and Emily Cunningham in charge of setting the company strategy, vision, branding, fundraising and manage operations. The Ghana GM leads mid level managers in charge of implementing the company strategy in their respective departments. We hire professionals based on their achievements and years of experience but also their affinity and commitment to our values and mission. We believe and invest in the personal and professional development of our team hence provide opportunity for in house knowledge sharing as well as sponsor training courses to develop their skill set and talent.
Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?
2017 Quartz Top 30 Africa Innovator
2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur
2014 Echoing Green Fellow
2014 Harambe Entrepreneur Associate
2014 MassChallenge Finalist
2012-2013 MIT D-Lab Scale Ups Fellow
2012 Black Engineer of the Year Awardee
Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?
We are shifting the paradigm of extractive and unethical sourcing by creating a new kind of supply chain with consideration for those at every stage - from farming to processing to branding and global market distribution. This vision has inspired us to actively listen to the needs of farming communities and provide financing for farms, training, and risk mitigation through a guaranteed market for all they produce. It has inspired us to create value-added processing in-country, creating jobs and stimulating the local economy, and to create products in Africa for Africans. It has propelled the launch the largest organic certified moringa farm in Africa - positioning us to be the premiere supplier of high quality moringa to the global market.
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018
Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018