Post-Deployment Project Update from Sierra Leone


It has been almost 5 months since the day that we gathered at the Produce Monitoring Board meeting room. It is a great honour to have learned about cocoa value chain development in the country, and having installed and trained AgUnity v3 platform and IoT solutions with a cocoa supply chain in Kono-Koidu area. With the help of Produce Monitoring Board, the AgUnity platform is well received and many attested the usefulness and the potentiality of it helping not just cocoa but also potentially other commodities in the nation, such as cashew and coffee production.

The current funded pilot aims at making a proof-of-concept of the use case of Blockchain on traceability and as accountable recorder of quality data metrices:

  • physical quality coming from the farmers, as complemented with temperature and humidity measures in fermenting process;
  • sensory evaluation coming from Cocoa of Excellence panel committee; and
  • attestation of exportability and pricing as by Produce Monitoring Board of Sierra Leone.

During the cooperation, I have attested first hand Produce Monitoring Board’s passion and work ethics in leveraging the small holder farmers quality of production and overall welfare. Indeed, quality of Sierra Leone Cocoa has seen tremendous improvement.

Before: Individual fermenteries are practiced by each of the farmers due to dysfunction of cooperatives in the area. Individual fermentaries also means inconsistency, lack of standards in fermentation process and it is impossible to gain scale with consistent quality result.

In the pilot: Farmers get together forming a group where fermentation is done collectively in one fermenting facility (with one assigned processing manager) but each batch can still be traceable back to the farmer. With more centralised fermenation, it is hoped that quality can be more easily be monitored and maintained (helped with the sensing ability and PMB supervision), while at the same time, with addition of traceability feature in the app, making sure fair dry bean price is paid back from buyers to processors, and from processors back to farmers.

Despite the increasing quality, quantity remains a problem whereas not so many cooperatives are functioning in ‘cooperative’ spirit and farmers still prefer to process and sell their beans individually, due to aggravating mistrusts between the farmers, village leadership and their enabling actors such as transporters and buyers.

As an example is the farmer we are working with for the pilot whose cocoa is awarded in both 2017 and 2019 as the best 50 cocoa in the world by Cocoa Excellence Award. This is despite his really humble processing facility. He and his fellow farmers in his area have been processing fermentation with woven baskets and simple drying table. Optimal temperature for fermentation is not consistently attained and the farmers are not equipped with thermometer or moisture level gauge device to monitor their processing facility— causing many spoilage and lower grade cocoa produces, despite the obvious potential. While they harvest and process their beans individually, they all sell to Sierra Leone PMC who has its own shortcoming in maintaining good warehouse management hence beans are usually mixed and quality of each farmers are not traceable.

In the pilot: Devices are used by 4 farmers, 1 processing manager, 1 driver, 1 buyer in Koidu, and 1 PMB tracer where all handovers (be it produces handover or cash) is securely recorded through the means of ‘double handshake’. Paralel to configuration of the supply chain, all 7 entities had their trainings over the course of 2.5 days, making runs of practices. Local process manager also is trained on documenting ‘asset transformation’ phases (e.g. from wet to fermented to dried to sorted beans) and its pertinent quality metrices such as temperature level in fermenting box that is captured every one hour, and humidity and temperature in the drying plot, and in the warehouse.  60-80% of Sierra Leonean cocoa is bought by one big buyer and this creates big dependency for the industry and PMB strive to reach other overseas buyers. It is still a good momentum as currently demand is still higher than supply, the reason why farmers still get quite favourable pricing. However, it is a concern that if quality cannot keep up with the price then cocoa can become a bubble in the country that’s deemed to crash.

In this pilot that runs until March 2020, 16 batches of sorted dry beans (amounting to 6 jute bags) from 4 farmers will be collected over the course of 1.5 month until the end of January. CoE committee will assist in sensory evaluation of the batches, which certificate attestation will be annotated in the data carried with each of the batch. Currently, adjustment for the PMC warehouse infrastructure is being prepared and deal with the buyer is currently being finalised for the small amount of the piloted batch of ~360kg.

In the pilot: multiple practices are tried before actual live batch starting in December. A dedicated PMB staff has become our extension in making sure the process and devices receive immediate troubleshooting when necessary.

Implementing on the ground, AgUnity is encouraged by the willingness of PMB and the national partners in cooperating and the fact that they have good, young cadre of ‘tracers’ (quality controllers / extension workers in the field) who are really passionate in helping the farmers to grow and are keen in understanding how a new system might revolutionize the way cocoa farmers and supply chain actors can conduct their business. With the introduction of AgUnity solution, PMB would like, specifically to see that farmers are then encouraged again to work together with each other, forming accountable cooperatives and will be able to produce collectively the yield and the quality expected by the buyers. AgUnity is proud to be part of this paradigm shift. With such commitment, the current Pilot potentially becomes the model of the good governance practice for the nation-wide pilot roll out in 2020.

One of the farmers included in pilot is practicing on the “Give Harvest” and “Get Cash” functions of AgUnity V3 Cocoa Suite.

I am very open for the enquiries and ideas around the theme of the project. I hope many more partners in the country are keen on jumping into this exciting journey with us and Produce Monitoring Board.

Yours,  Nurvitria (Bali, Indonesia)

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