Smallholder farmers are the backbone of food production across Africa, providing up to 80% of the continent’s food supply. Yet these farmers struggle to fully capitalize on their yields and labor. With over 120 kg of food lost per capita in sub-Saharan Africa annually, lack of storage and transparent market linkages squander immense nutritional and economic potential.
Zebra CropBank provides climate-smart solutions tailored to overcome the interlinked challenges holding smallholders back. Their solar-powered micro-warehouses allow farmers to safely store more of their harvest while integrated trading platforms connect them to stable markets and fair prices.
Here’s a deeper look at why we partner with Zebra CropBank:
Zebra CropBank is poised to drive a massive positive impact on incomes, resilience, and food security across Africa’s predominant but underserved smallholder farmers.
Across the continent, farmers face a myriad of challenges from low access to capital, to poor market linkages, to weak infrastructure and logistics. Aggregation and efficiencies are also difficult to achieve since most farms are small: in Nigeria, 38 million smallholder farmers till fewer than 5 hectares each. Furthermore, farmers are facing dramatic climate change impacts and environmental conditions so yields are declining even as land being farmed increases.
While many organizations are targeting on-farm productivity, few are addressing the post-harvest challenges that keep farmers’ income down. According to FAO, 37% (or 120-170 kg/year per capita) of food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa is lost between production and consumption due to lack of storage facilities and low access to liquidity. Those challenges also force smallholders to sell immediately after harvest when market prices are lowest, even as intermediaries can resell their produce at huge margins later.
Zebra Cropbank is an agritech startup providing the infrastructure for farmers to store their produce, connect them to markets, improve access to credit ,and secure better prices. The company is building and leasing solar powered micro-warehouses at close proximity to the farm clusters/communities making it cheap and easily accessible to smallholder farmers to store and insure their harvest. Using a USSD platform, farmers are able to efficiently and transparently store and trade their produce. By solar drying, safely storing, and selling at optimal prices, farmers using Zebra CropBank’s micro-warehouses increased incomes by up to 90% while avoiding storage losses.
As Zebra CropBank rapidly scales up storage units across Enugu state and beyond, they can exponentially increase impact. Just reaching 1% of Nigerian smallholders would impact 380,000 livelihoods directly. With robust measurement frameworks in place, quantified income improvements and post-harvest loss reduction for each additional farmer will clearly showcase Zebra CropBank’s value chain approach lifting smallholders out of cycles of poverty.
Zebra CropBank takes an innovative big-picture approach by bundling three interconnected solutions - solar warehousing, pricing transparency, and embedded lending options. It’s this combination that can holistically tackle root causes trapping smallholder farmers in cycles of poverty.
Many farmers lack access to any storage infrastructure, forcing distressed sales immediately after harvest when market prices tank. Private facilities are often only accessible for large commercial farms. Zebra CropBank’s distributed solar storage units overcome these challenges to minimize post-harvest losses for smallholders specifically.
However, building climate-resilient storage infrastructure alone is not enough. Smallholders also need more visibility and bargaining power in commodities markets. Zebra’s integrated USSD trading platform cuts out exploitative middlemen by giving farmers more direct agency in selling to fair national markets.
The third and final piece of the puzzle will be access to finance. With storage units preserving harvest quality over months, Zebra CropBank plans to link receipts to unlock credit so farmers can invest in inputs to increase yields.
This complete view addressing infrastructure, transparency, and finance holistically makes Zebra CropBank’s model so innovative. As pioneers bundling physical and digital tools uniquely tailored for smallholders’ needs, Zebra CropBank is cementing an innovative business model linking underserved farmers to formal markets and finance.
From early traction across 5 solar micro-warehouse units and 1,400 registered farmers in Enugu State, Nigeria, Zebra CropBank has proven its model and is now poised to scale up significantly.
With only 22% utilization of Nigeria’s 1.3 million metric tons of existing silo infrastructure, huge unmet demand exists for agricultural storage and supply chain solutions. $8 billion of investment is required to realize the country’s full domestic grain production potential.
The market size for climate-smart farmgate storage and trading platforms tailored to smallholders is truly vast in Nigeria and continentally. Zebra CropBank aims to establish a network of over 190 micro-warehouses nationwide by 2027 to meet this opportunity.
Responsible growth at this scale requires thinking systematically about geographic expansion, partnerships, technology integration, and impact measurement. Our hands-on support will focus intensely on structuring Zebra CropBank’s growth strategy to ensure sustainable development impact.
We’ll help map priority crop value chains and zones countrywide, broker win-win partnerships with off-takers, input providers, and finance channels, enhance technological capabilities to track Los and optimize trade, and quantify the impact on farmers to showcase the value chain approach.
Successful expansion will further cement Zebra CropBank as a leader in empowering Africa’s smallholders with bundled climate-smart infrastructure and market linkages. We’re aligned on the founder’s ambitious vision and are excited to partner with Zebra CropBank in spreading solar storage to unlock more value for farmers across Nigeria.