Using the power of technology for a good cause
What do you get when you bring digital and tech together with a good cause? A digital marketplace where donors are linked to African farmers, who shovel life back into the barren soil.
The climate is one of the major concerns of this generation. Realising this, Justdiggit trains people in areas of drought to dig half-moon circles in which rainwater is collected. This process of ‘greening’ ensures that the land will be fertile again within a year, something that is vitally important for the local population and which, on a larger scale, the whole world can benefit from.
The climate is one of the major concerns of this generation
Spreading the knowledge
Justdiggit focusses on spreading their knowledge all the while empowering locals to organise and carry out the work themselves under the guidance of fundi’s, the local rangers. In order to have a lasting and positive effect on the climate, Justdiggit needs to fertilise as many hectares of land as possible, something it simply cannot do by itself. They believe that empowering the local population is a sustainable solution.
Justdiggit asked Dept how technology could help them achieve their goals. As Deptsters are committed to making a change, the agency is a breeding ground for social and sustainable initiatives. So within Dept, a team was put together to give a helping hand.
As an agency, we have a lot of experience with marketplaces. Over the last couple of years services that use tech marketplaces to bring people together, like Deliveroo, Airbnb and Tinder, have changed the world. ‘Cutting out the middleman’ is a proven formula and therefore the team wondered if and how they could apply this concept to the process of Justdiggit.
In a strategy and design print, the team designed a platform where farmers who want to dig holes in a qualifying area are linked to people who want to sponsor them. Research showed that many of the farmers in African villages are well connected. They completely skipped landlines and ADSL and take care of a lot of business mobile. For example, over 40% of the population of Tanzania does their banking via M-Pesa, which amounts to 95 million mobile money transactions per month.
The marketplace/app works as follows:
- People in the West can easily donate money through Ideal.
- In the background, a system automatically connects the donations to all the farmers who are allowed to dig in a qualifying area.
- Once a hole has been dug, it is captured with a photograph. This photo is approved by a fundi, who acts as a kind of overseer, and then the transaction is made.
- The donor receives the photo and the transaction overview. Digging a hole costs €3,64, of which €2,02 goes to the farmer. The rest of the money goes to the purchase of seeds, the salary of the fundi, transaction costs and the protection of project areas against overgrazing by cattle. It is a fair system and a perfect example of cutting out the middleman, where Justdiggit is purely the facilitator.
Rabobank X Justdiggit
As a partner of Justdiggit, Rabobank was prepared to finance this idea in exchange for some features which it could use internally, such as a link to a savings account for a charity that the bank has for its employees. In addition, Dept decided to take care of Justdiggit’s participation in the Google Grants Pro program free of charge.
Challenges in the real world
The working prototype is an app that African farmers can log in to with their telephone number – which also serves as their bank account number – with an online platform through which donations can be made. This, however, first had to be tested. A small team from Dept and Justdiggit went to Tanzania, where they experienced that reality is always different from what you can imagine beforehand.
The project brought some unique challenges, such as limiting fraud as well as maintaining a healthy balance between the supply of donors and the capacity of farmers. In addition, due to the language barrier and failing internet connection, it was sometimes complicated to explain the workings of the app.
The insights from the user tests are included in the further development of the app. At this moment, for example, the settlement of payments with local supervisors is being resolved.
The app is now being beta tested with farmers, selected donors along with Dept, and will soon be available for everyone to donate. The beta version currently covers 80 hectares. Next year that will be increased to approximately 50% of the Dodoma region, an area the size of the Netherlands.
A project with everything in it
All projects are special, but some are slightly more special than others. By using their digital/tech expertise, Justdiggit and Dept devised, developed and tested a platform that will contribute substantially to making the earth a greener place. A marketplace like this is unique for an NGO and is a perfect example of using technology to create a better world by directly linking supply and demand, fitting well with the needs of donors to have a grip on their donation. By enabling the local population, it is a sustainable business. Moreover, it is healthy entrepreneurship that moves beyond idealism or charity, because it creates a profit. In short, all parties benefit from it.