Sierra Leone’s limited food production leads to large imports of its main food items, resulting in large outflows of foreign currency, exposure to international markets and price increases. Food price increase leaves Sierra Leoneans more vulnerable to food insecurity. In addition, 96% of all farmers are below the subsistence level and struggle to feed their families consistently, with 40% of children being stunted. Protein and energy malnutrition are major sources of premature mortality, second only to malaria.
WARC Africa was established in 2011 with the mission to improve food security, local production, and nutritional diversity for Sierra Leoneans. It aims to change the lives of smallholder farmers by providing a three-year training programme. This training covers the use of high quality, certified seeds, climate-adaptive varieties, and no-till practices.
The Training Farm started with the production of rice – Sierra Leone’s main staple. And then it extended to maize, key raw material for poultry feed, poultry, eggs, and more recently fish farming (aquaculture). Farmers are now diversifying risk, generating several streams of income, improving their nutrition intake and above all, moving away from subsistence. They are becoming true business people.
The Training Farm is structured as follow:
Additionally, WARC actively promotes climate-smart solutions and natural resource management practices in training sessions with farmers. To avoid soil disturbance, WARC introduces modern no-till technologies on the Training Farm and to smallholder farmers. No-till is an agricultural practice that increases organic matter and water retention, minimising the need for fertiliser and irrigation. It also prevents slash & burn and can reduce over 50 litres of diesel use per hectare. WARC and its farmers have saved over 100,000 litres of diesel in the last 12 months.
WARC’s Business Model
The WARC group is divided into three main entities with different services and legal status:
1) WARC Production
This social enterprise includes the Training Farm through which farmers simultaneously learn and produce rice and other products.
Revenue from food produce + funding from social investors to scale up (Cordaid Investment Management)
2) WARC Consulting
This company of experts provides consultancy services on business and agriculture in the developing world. They help SMEs grow and increase their social impact. They’ve been working in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe etc.
Revenue from consulting services
3) WARC Foundation
This non-profit entity aims to improve the livelihoods of disadvantaged families in Sierra Leone. Its support focuses on child development, gender equality, and emergency relief to enable rural communities to prosper.
These three entities allow the group as a whole to have diverse revenue streams with all profits reinvested into further expansion to generate a larger overall impact.
KEY SOCIAL IMPACT FIGURES
As of December 2017
WARC farmers are women
jobs created since 2016
under no-till and crop rotation system
VENTURE PHILANTHROPY CONTRIBUTION
How it started and support provided
In 2015 Cordaid Investment Management (Cordaid Investments) established the Stability Impact Fund Africa (SIFA) to provide inclusive and affordable finance for growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in fragile contexts. Cordaid Investments picked Sierra Leone as the first focus country to make investments despite the economic wreck brought by the Ebola crisis.
WARC was an early-stage commercial rice producer in Sierra Leone before Ebola struck in May 2014. The company had to close operations and thought it had lost its track to growth. WARC nevertheless came back to business in 2015. It successfully resumed its rice production and decided to expand.
This is the moment when Cordaid Investments provided a first loan through SIFA, while other international investors were not willing to take the risk. The loan, to be repaid within five years, amounted to the equivalent of €142,000 in local currency (Sierra Leonean Leone, SLL). The objective was to create at least 100 new jobs, expanding WARC’s rice production from 350 hectares to 900 hectares. Eventually, Cordaid Investment’s loan catalysed additional funding (equity investment and grants) that was used for infrastructure and more equipment and reach out a larger amount of farmers.
Following the promising results of the first investment, in 2017, Cordaid Investments decided to grant a second loan, with the same repayment conditions, of €115,000 in SLL. This second financial support was aimed at launching WARC’s maize production.
Cordaid Investments worked together with WARC to develop some Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) action plans, related to for example occupational health and safety, and community stakeholders consultation.
From December 2017
# of trainees with a fixed income
Improved agricultural production
# of farmers under the extension networks*
hectares under no-till and crop rotation system
# of smallholder farmers under outgrowers scheme**
% of women farmers
* groups of 10 to 20 farmers, provided with on-farm technical assistance on a weekly basis and connected to markets
** farmers under the extension networks and who have received inputs (improved seeds, fertilisers) and land services (e.g. no-till planting, harvesting) from WARC
WARC pursues the advancement of four key Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and measures them using proven indicators and methodologies:
• SDG 1 – no poverty: measured with IRIS metrics (PI3193, PI9835, PI7098). Additionally, WARC uses Poverty Probability Index (managed by IPA) and the Poverty Stoplight, to measure outcomes in the villages where it operates.
• SDG 2 – no hunger: WARC measures its clients’ and others’ perception of hunger, consumption of key food items (e.g. eggs, meat), wasting and stunting for children.
• SDG 5 – gender equality: WARC uses IRIS metrics (OI1855, OI8838, OI6213, OI1571), to measure the number of women employed, wage parity, number of women in management / skilled positions and women as recipient of farming services.
• SDG 13 – climate action: WARC uses IRIS metrics (OI8237, OI2092) and focuses on number of hectares under no till, number of hectares converted away from slash and burn and litres of diesel saved
What they think
• • •
— Hawa, WARC farmer
“The life here in the village was very miserable. Because there was no work here. We always go to our farm to plant our peppers, aubergines to generate money from that. But now that WARC is here, we are now living happy. We are working, receive a salary, we pay our children school fees. We have good food to eat. Dress ourselves. That’s what WARC has done for us.”
“Cordaid Investment Management took a significant risk the first time they invested in us, a primary agricultural producer in post-Ebola Sierra Leone. They took a risk that other international lenders were not willing to take. This loan catalysed additional finance that we used for our expansion. Three years later, we consolidated our position, working with over 600 farmers, and are entering a second country.”
“Cordaid Investments supported in WARC because the potential social impact of the business model is significant in terms of food security, employment and sustainable livelihoods in the community. The social targets are also aligned with SIFA’s mission of job creation with priority to women and youth employment.”
WARC positioned itself as a leader in introducing sustainable farming practices in Sierra Leone. Its trainees are now becoming managers that deliver best-in-class farming packages to other farmers in the country. In 2019, WARC ambitions to open its second Training Farm in Brong-Ahafo, in central Ghana. This will prove the potential to replicate of the model and enable WARC to seek a multi-country expansion in the mid-term.