Ebay Against Hunger - How an App Supports Crop Sale of Rural Small Holders in Zambia

Small holders around the world are often forced to sell their harvests below market value due to a lack of market and pricing information. A new app by the WFP is going to change this.


Maano – The Virtual Farmers‘ Market App developed by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) supports the crop sale of rural small holders. (c) WFP/Archiv

Project name

Maano – Virtual Farmers‘ Market

Target group

Rural smallholder farmers


Since August 2016

Lead Executing Agency

UN World Food Programme (WFP) Zambia


USD 330,000 (as of November 2017)

Lack of Information

(c) WFP/Archiv
60 percent less income than in the capital: Rural small holder farmers like the families of Mumbwa had almost no access to real-time market information. (c) WFP/Archiv

Bags of cowpeas are neatly packed, stacked and ready to get be picked-up at the entrance of a rural village in Mumbwa, 200 kilometres away from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. But the families who produce and sell them to traders from Lusaka receive less than half of the price in the capital. The reason: They simply do not know the real market values of their crops and which traders pay best. Approximately 500,000 rural small holder households in Zambia are in a similar situation. Worldwide, almost 500 million farmers in developing countries lack accurate, reliable and real-time market information as well as connectivity with other buyers. Families thus struggle to generate income and build savings in times of drought. The result is persistent high levels of poverty and hunger.


Three WFP employees and a social entrepreneur from Tanzania want to change this. In 2016, they joined a 10-days boot camp hosted by the WFP Innovation Accelerator in Munich, the hub to develop innovative solutions against hunger. With them they brought the idea of an app helping rural farmers to achieve higher prices and become more independent. "Digital and financial technologies have revolutionised industries in rich-world economies", says Evin Joyce, co-creator and WFP’s manager of Maano in Zambia. "Customising these technologies to agriculture in Africa can create equally impressive change. What we need to ask is "How quickly?", and "Who will this change benefit most?" If the world is to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030, we must answer "as soon as possible" and "to benefit those furthest behind first."


Assisting the poorest – a premise of Maano

Maano only works properly if all community members benefit. Given this premise, the developers integrated a "leave no one behind" (LN1B) approach, which aims to reach the poorest families and avoids to support only well-established farmers becoming more prosperous. As such, Maano ambassadors sign a code of conduct and agree to donate seeds to poor households to grow plants and sell the produce. At the end of this year’s marketing season, they reported sales of 2,200 kilograms of food on behalf of their LN1B farmers through Maano – a step forward to reduce hunger and strengthen the sense of community.



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WFP employees build the app together with IT experts and the support from the WFP Innovation Accelerator in Munich. (c) WFP/Archiv

At the end of the boot camp, Maano was born. This Virtual Farmers’ Market App is based on the same logic as other exchange platforms such as Ebay or AirBnB. Small holders can retrieve real-time market information provided by WFP and advertise their minimum price. Traders can then view the offers, make a bid, and once the farmer accepts, the traders make payment to WFP’s Maano bank account. Only once the produce is collected and the trader confirms its quality and quantity, the payment will be released to the farmer through mobile money. And the best part: Both sides benefit from Maano. Farmers receive more equitable prices enabling them to reinvest in their production. Buyers have an increased choice and access to larger volumes. Both save a lot of time and money for packaging, storage and transport.


Our most important assumptions have held true, namely that rural smallholder farmers who had never touched a smart phone before can learn how to use one to sell their communities’ produce at the right quantities and quality to attract new buyers


Since April 2017, Maano is available on Google Play Store and has been promoted in print and radio. Fifty smallholder farmers from different communities have been trained as "Maano Ambassadors" to promote the app among their community members, explain the features and coordinate advertisements and sales on the online market. During its first season, a reported 1,200 ’follower farmers’ have used the app with success: Until October, 148 metric tons of cowpeas, soya beans and other type of grains have been sold through Maano – equivalent to five fully loaded trucks. Over 100 transactions have been made with a turnover of USD 48,000. "We’re really happy with what has happened during this first year of piloting. Our most important assumptions have held true, namely that rural smallholder farmers who had never touched a smart phone before can learn how to use one to sell their communities’ produce at the right quantities and quality to attract new buyers", says Joyce.


Big plans

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During the last season, 1,200 rural small holder farmers have sold their produce through Maano. Transactions are so far coordinated by 50 “Maano Ambassadors“. (c) WFP/Archiv

Many farmers are happy with the result and their sales during 2017’s season. All ambassadors want to continue working with Maano. "I love this programme and I have become a good marketer for my people. I would love to continue serving them," reports one ambassador. And the developers pursue ambitious plans. Next year, they want to at least double the number of farmers using the app and the amount they are trading and launch small-scale pilot in two other countries. "This first year has shown us that our concept works and both farmers and traders want a product like Maano," says Joyce. "Now we need to scale it up as efficiently and quickly as possible, while at the same time ensuring that it continues to benefit those furthest behind first: that’s prerequisite if Maano is to contribute to achieving Zero Hunger by 2030."


Maano – the Virtual Farmers’ Market App has been developed and implemented with support of the WFP Innovation Accelerator and the Government of Germany. More information on innovation against hunger: innovation.wfp.org



1 Year Maano: Pilot project report: https://www.wfp.org/content/2017-wfp-zambia

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, supporting around 80 million people in more than 80 countries each year with food, money and vouchers.

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