FoodFlow’s Eveline Jansen Speaks on Why Enviu’s Philosophy and Approach Have Influenced The Program’s Success

Eveline Jansen is the Regional Program Manager at FoodFlow. She has more than 10 years working experience with a knack for  partner and relationship management, strategy, impact development and program management. She is most happy working in a tightly knit team of inspiring and enthusiastic people – exactly what she’s currently doing in our Nairobi office!

  

What Is FoodFlow All About?

FoodFlow is a program by venture building studio Enviu that focuses on ideating entrepreneurial solutions, starting ventures in broken value chains with the purpose of making those value chains sustainable and circular in a way that is beneficial to people, planet and economies. The ambition of FoodFlow is to showcase zero percent post harvest loss in horticultural value chains through business interventions. 

As part of its program, Enviu conducts an issue analysis, which identifies leverage points around which we can build sustainable, high impact solutions, that drive the unsustainable value chain to the more circular, sustainable version we envision.Through a series of pilots and lean testing these ventures are designed to become self-sustaining, profitable, impact generating machines, built for scalability and commercial sustainability. 

Looking at the food value chain in Kenya, there are many places where food loss occurs between farmgate and the buyer, and these offer opportunities to create sustainable business interventions that drive out losses.

The result is an interlinked ecosystem of ventures working together towards the ambitious goal of zero percent loss. (which by the way, we’ve already achieved on multiple occasions!)

Why Kenya?

Food systems in Sub Saharan Africa generally experience a lot of post harvest loss because of a combination of factors. The value chain is dominated by a lot of brokers and middlemen, farmers live in poverty and therefore have no ability to invest in their businesses, they are disconnected from the market, live in areas with inadequate infrastructure, and hardly have access to technological innovation to professionalize. 

It’s never easy starting a company but doing it in one of the most challenging sectors makes it even more difficult. A key reason we started in Kenya is because of the conducive and supportive ecosystem. Kenya has become an innovation hub for East Africa, with a lot of inspiring initiatives, a lot of international organizations active in the sector, and a facilitating start up environment. There is also up to 50% of food being lost in Kenya due to unprofessional value chains, a massive issue which has huge potential if addressed. 

Eliminating Food Loss In An Economy Where Up to 50% Of Food Produce Is Lost Is A Gargantuan Task. How’s The Journey Going So Far?

We have ideated three business interventions within FoodFlow – Cold Storage, Market Linkage and Processing. Our first venture, SokoFresh, was incorporated two years ago and is one year into full operation. Through the combined services that SokoFresh offers, we are making the ambition of zero percent food loss a reality. . 

Using cold storage to preserve produce gives us time to find a buyer, and any produce that is not off-taken due to a shortfall in quality will now be moved to our processing facility. By having a micro processing factory at farm-gate, we will be able to return much of the value-add to the farmer and let no produce go to waste. 

We have so far onboarded 1200 farmers who are now earning an average of 20% more income, sometimes upto 40%. 

And while we’ve shortened the value chain, cutting out the middlemen, we have also created new job opportunities for agents, scouts and harvesters in the communities. 

Such An Ambitious Mission Is Not Short Of Hurdles. Which Challenges Have You Faced So Far? 

The main challenge the past 1,5 year has of course been the COVID-19 pandemic, which have severely impacted people’s livelihoods and health, and on top of that also disrupted global supply chains. More recently, China has suffered from severe flooding. This has caused some delays in, for example, shipping certain equipment. But overall, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have thankfully been able to sustain and grow our operations, and have been able to sustain our engagements with our customers by taking the necessary precautions. 

We also have a very dedicated and engaged team at SokoFresh that has been instrumental in pushing for progress despite the hurdles.

What factor has greatly contributed to the success of FoodFlow so far? 

This is very much aligned to one of the key things that Enviu focuses on, which is Human Centred Design. We conduct a deep analysis of our target consumer needs and create solutions that are not just impactful, but desirable. Placing your customer at the centre of the design not only creates new answers to old problems, but causes a shift toward more sustainable practices. We have had immense success connecting smallholders to premium markets who are often disconnected from large markets and instilling change in their context in a way they embrace has given us success. 

Our mission is ambitious yet has been achievable because Enviu operates with a lean methodology. We test our riskiest assumptions and run pilots with resources available before undertaking heavy investments. These measures are necessary to prove the workability of our assumptions.

Another factor is our practical hands-on approach to venture building. Our venture builders don’t sit behind a desk and imagine solutions. They operate from the grassroots, talking to relevant parties to diagnose the need, seek and gain access to key decision-makers and create a custom solution that benefits the target market. 

Given This Success, What is the Way Forward For FoodFlow?

In the broader sense of tackling food systems, looking at food security also means looking at what can be done on the farmer’s side, so moving pre-harvest. Currently we have showcased that an innovative value chain can be fully circular from farmgate to buyer, incurring no food losses. But while smallholder incomes have significantly increased, their current farming practices still prevent them from being truly resilient. We feel that the solution lies in the application of regenerative practices. These practices will make farmers more resilient in the face of climate change by improving their soils and making their production more diverse and reliable. On top of that, the ‘beyond organic’ and highly nutritious produce coming from these farms will ensure offtake at a premium price, making farming a more attractive business case. In true Enviu fashion, we are now looking at building an ecosystem of ventures that can enable a widespread transition to Regenerative Agriculture in a sustainable and profitable way. On that note, if you are interested in supporting us on our regenerative journey, please be in touch as we are currently looking for funding support. You may reach us through eastafrica@enviu.org.

What Has Been The Place of Partnerships and Funding In the Success Of FoodFlow ?

Partnerships have been crucial in increasing the effectiveness and sustainability of our efforts.  To achieve our goals we have forged collaborative relations with other non governmental organizations, governments, farmer groups, traders, and individuals. Furthermore, building on shared insights and tapping into the knowledge of our partners who have vast experience operating in similar fields has multiplied our impact. We have saved valuable time and resources that would have otherwise been used to get. 

Our flexibility and effectiveness in innovating and scaling solutions hinges, to a great extent, on the availability of capital provided by our funders. The implementation of the program and it’s activities would not be successful without the support from our donors. For this we are grateful and urge our partners to continue investing in impact. Our goals are too ambitious to achieve on our own. This is the core of Enviu’s philosophy; if you think you can do it alone, then you are not dreaming big enough. 

In Conclusion

We are ever ready to create synergies with individuals and organizations and leverage on them for the greater good. Reach out to us eastafrica@enviu.org

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