For the smallholder farmers who grow cashew nuts in rural Côte d’Ivoire, earning a steady living can be precarious. Many of them struggle to find buyers for their crops. Most of them are also unable to access loans and other financial services, making it difficult to save for the future or grow their businesses. Weather shocks also make production inconsistent, adding complexity and risk to smallholder farming activities.
Enter Wi-Agri, an agri-tech platform that connects farmers and agricultural laborers in Côte d’Ivoire with buyers, agricultural information and training, and financial services. Launched in 2021, Wi-Agri has already enrolled 10,000 users, including smallholder farmers, buyers, small processing businesses, and exporters.
“Wi-Agri provides a comprehensive approach to achieving financial and economic inclusion for women in Côte d’Ivoire’s cashew nut sector, combining financial services, market access, business training, and extension services,” said Renée Chao Beroff, one of the company’s cofounders, during a meeting with the UNSGSA on 13 June 2022.
For cashew farmers near Bouaké, the country’s second-largest city, Wi-Agri connects them with buyers at FOODS’CO S.A., which processes and sells the nuts, giving the farmers a guaranteed market for their crops.
The link is beneficial for the company as well as for the farmers, explained Tahirou Sanogo, FOODS’CO’s founder and CEO. In a meeting with the UNSGSA, he said, “Wi-Agri has made sourcing cashews more efficient and transparent. It improves our productivity while supporting local economic development in Bouaké.”
The platform also links farmers and cooperatives with financial services through a partnership with Fin‘ELLE a women-focused microfinance institution (MFI). Created in 2018, Fin’ELLE now serves more than 10,000 clients and is one of the top 10 MFIs in Côte d’Ivoire. Through its partnership with Wi-Agri and FOODS’CO, it provides loans to farmers’ cooperatives in the cashew nut sector, as well as savings accounts for individual farmers.
“Our micro loans have allowed cooperatives to invest productively in machinery and better agricultural inputs, providing an important source of growth for the future,” said Pierrette Kouakou, managing director at Fin’ELLE.
Most importantly, this partnership has yielded tangible improvements for the farmers themselves, according to N'diamoi Bletchi, who created and oversees a farmers cooperative called SOCABE in 2015. He told the UNSGSA that his group, which represents 200 member farmers and 150 non-member producers and suppliers across the Gbêkê region, joined the Wi-Agri platform in 2021 in order to give its members access to new markets as well as financial services.
As Wi-Agri continues to expand, its leaders hope to reach more than half a million users by 2025, 40% of them women. It also plans to expand to other countries in West Africa, including Benin and Senegal.