USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub Centralizes Commodity Tracking to Support More Sustainable Farming and Financial Security for Regional Farmers
 
 

USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub Centralizes Commodity Tracking to Support More Sustainable Farming and Financial Security for Regional Farmers

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern Africa Trade Hub aimed to increase international competitiveness, intra-regional trade, and food security in Southern Africa. With offices in Gaborone, Botswana; Centurion (Pretoria), South Africa; and embedded advisors in offices in Malawi and Namibia, the Trade Hub worked primarily in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zambia.

The Trade Hub provided needs-driven assistance to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), governments, and private sector organizations in eight countries to advance regional trade within Southern Africa while incorporating gender integration, environment compliance, and strategic outreach in all activities.

 
 

 
 

Challenges

A word from USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub

  • “Our Oracle-based Warehouse Receipt System gives us visibility into the commodities stored by suppliers, helping us meet food distribution needs in the region while supporting more sustainable farming practices.” – Craig Dunlop, Technical Lead: Warehouse Receipt Project, USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub

  • Develop a centralized stock management system to provide visibility into harvested crop inventory in the region and enable the farmer client through the initiatives of Trade Hub to improve sales process efficiency and distribution planning
  • Improve food security and production in Southern Africa by providing professional warehousing to smallholder farmers who could lose up to 30% of their product post-harvest due to inadequate storage facilities
  • Minimize negative environmental effects associated with traditional storage methods
  • Provide a more sustainable future for farmers

Solutions

  • Built a secure, web-based Warehouse Receipt System (WRS)—based on Oracle VM, Oracle Database, Express Edition, and Oracle Application Express—to support the receipt-to-sales process for the commodity industry in Southern Africa
  • Used the WRS to provide a global central repository of available products delivered by suppliers, enabling the Trade Hub to improve sales process efficiency by giving buyers visibility into the quality and quantity of in-stock commodities
  • Improved distribution planning by identifying the closest warehouse with commodities in stock to meet specific purchasing demands
  • Deployed a centralized stock management system so professional warehouse owners are reassured to open their warehouse for third party storage (for farmers, for example) while all stakeholders such as financiers, traders, processors, and farmers could at all times keep track of the stock, the rightful owners, and whether it is attached as collateral to another party
  • Established professional warehousing so that smallholder farmers no longer have to cut down trees to build elementary storage facilities
  • Improved farmers’ financial security by incentivizing them to produce more product and enabling them to store their product for sale at a later date—rather than sell it all at harvest time, when products are in oversupply and prices are at their lowest
  • Enabled farmers to sell their crops from a central location, increasing the amount of time they have to farm, reducing stock losses, and ensuring a more sustainable future
  • Integrated the commodity receipt system with supplier payments to enable financiers to accurately pay suppliers for delivered goods in a timely manner—ultimately creating sustainability in the indirect market
  • Extended the flexible and scalable WRS to support other African countries and organizations, including the Zambian Commodity Exchange

Why Oracle

Given Mozambique’s size, with stakeholders logistically removed from each other, USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub required a multi-user, secure online solution. Oracle was the organization’s preferred choice as it is globally accepted software that could be supported by a qualified service provider.

Implementation Process

USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub, through its Warehouse Specialist Consultant, Dr André van der Vyver, explored various submissions by software service providers to design, develop, and implement a specialized software system suitable for Mozambique. Post implementation training and support service also played an important role in USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub’s decision making process. The organization appointed APPSolve, a South African Consulting organization to deliver this solution. For approximately six months, Dr André van der Vyver closely liaised with APPSolve on scoping the requirements, developing the solution, and finally rolling out the solution. The consultant and AppSolve managed the project in a multi-country and multi-stakeholder environment.

Partner

The WRS is a specialized or custom made stock management system. This means USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub had to be intimately involved in the scoping and design of the system. At implementation or rollout, and given the lack of computerized skills at warehouse level, USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub in collaboration with APPSolve presented various training workshops to educate users.

APPSolve selected Oracle Technology for USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub’s solution for several reasons. First, there were low license costs for the Oracle Database, Express Edition and for the Oracle Application Express. This was very attractive to USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub as it meant that the organization would only incur meaningful costs when the database volumes grow significantly and there is a need to upgrade to the Oracle Database, Enterprise Edition. In addition, Oracle provided a simple and scalable solution that was quick to develop and deploy. Further, the solution did not require the organization to invest in a large supporting infrastructure, and it can reach remote areas easily. Finally, the organization can support the solution easily because the technology is global and Oracle skills are easily accessible.