Fourth Line: Helping African Farmers Reach Prosperity

Chiyanika Nakasamu, founder and CEO of Fourth Line

Fourth Line is a community-driven group of young innovators developing a robust social, economic and scalable platform to transform the income of people in rural areas, reduce their poverty by enabling them to produce high-value honey for global markets. 

Space in Africa had a chat with Chiyanika Nakasamu, the founder and CEO of Fourth Line.

What is Fourth Line?

Fourth Line is a Zambian agribusiness social enterprise firm operating in rural Africa dedicated to changing lives through our designed innovative low-cost beehive made from unwanted wood waste and offcuts whose yields have increased productivity from 15kg to 70kg per season. We offer a traceable social-economic footprint to thousands of rural honey out-growers and smallholder farmers by engaging them to produce high-value honey for exports to global markets.

Fourth Line’s mission is to bring prosperity to all smallholder farmers across Africa. And by ensuring smallholder farmers basic needs are met, they live happier, healthier lives and provide better farm produce.

How long have you been around?

We have been around for two years (since 2019).

What are your operations like?

Our day-to-day operations involve providing agricultural precision farming services, training farmers in beekeeping and sustainable forest use, training farmers on how to make beehives, and handling honey product distribution for small scale farmers in Zambia. We also process and package honey products for retail sale in local stores.

One of the things you do involves “helping African farmers reach prosperity”, how do you achieve that?

We help farmers reach prosperity by engaging them in beekeeping, sustainable farming, product distribution, and bringing innovative digital financial services to their doorstep. We have helped farmers unlock their potentials through the various partnershipsthat we have had with them. We aim to empower 2,500 farmers (made up of 60% youth and 40% women) with tangible income and access to the market and enable farmers to grow and sell more as they get access to credit which will allow them to reach prosperity.

Since the time we started operating the business in 2019, these are our impacts:

      1. Increased productivity of 500 smallholder farmers by 80%, mostly through the adoption of climate-smart farming systems for food and cash crops.
      2. Increased access to farming inputs for 1,200 smallholder farmers (60% of whom were women).
      3. Increased access to market, finance and distribution network for 800 farmers
      4. Created employment opportunities for 30 young people (50% of whom were young women).

In terms of funding, how do you sponsor your operations and training?

We started our business with funding from CIVICUS (grant for farmers training in beekeeping and farming), SEED (grant for capacity developing and purchase of processing equipment) and the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) (grant for operations and export).

These fundings enabled us to manage our training and operations. We were also able to buy unprocessed honey from farmers we work with and sell them to bulk buyers. The sales we make from honey enable us to sustain business operations and offer training and onboarding farmers.

Wholesale honey products. Source: Fourth Line

Have you been able to raise any investments since inception?

Yes, we have received grants, technical support and other resources from USADF, CIVICUS, SEED, and CELO FOUNDATION. The investments from these organisations have been instrumental in proving and validating our ideas and initiatives.

Are your services only for Zambian farmers?

Our services are not restricted to only Zambians. We want every farmer in sub-Saharan Africa to have access to our services.

Could you speak more about the Pollen service?

Pollen is a USSD platform helping smallholder farmers in Zambia achieve prosperity. We aim to provide a simple—but effective—ecosystem for peer-to-peer lending, to service the unbanked, promote saving, and generate data to offer affordable microloans. Our first take on this is the Pollen Saving Circles.

Traditional saving circles involve a group of people pooling their money and locking it in a box. A member is chosen to be the secretary to keep the funds safe and manage payouts. We’ve decentralized this entire process with Pollen; from the storing of value to the governance of circles. Specifically, our aim is to allow users to:

  1. Start or join a savings circle
  2. Pay-in and request funds from their circles
  3. View circle balances and obligations
  4. Govern payouts, interest rates, new members, etc. by voting on proposals
  5. Send and request payments from users

To make this happen, we will be using the KotaniPay API to connect to the Celo blockchain. We already built the USSD service using Africa’s Talking, which is connected to a traditional database. Currently, we are working with the KotaniPay team to migrate our savings circles model to on-chain with a smart contract. Both the transfer of funds and voting will be done on-chain. As of November 18, 2020, we’ve been able to create a wallet, send cUSD, get transaction history, and check balance—all through USSD.

You were part of the 17 startups selected for the Space Tech Challenge 2020, can you speak on your experience so far?

We are part of the 17 startups selected for the Challenge. Through the mentorship and coaching webinars, we have managed to refine our problem statement and the approach to addressing the problem. We’ve also built some strong networks with various participants. And we are looking forward to the pitching den.

The finalists are supposed to participate in a pitching den to be assessed by a panel of judges and industry representatives, has that occurred already?

Not yet. 

How are you planning towards that?

We are preparing adequately and hoping to emerge as winners.

How will winning the Space Tech challenge affect Fourth Line?

Winning the Space Tech Challenge will give us huge motivation and expose us to various stakeholders and investors. It will also help us in prototyping and testing our solution.

What are the challenges you currently face as an African startup?

We are faced with business survival threatening challenges such as finances, technical and logistics. Most of the farmers we service are located in the most remote parts of Zambia, so accessing them is very difficult. Technical challenge: The problem we are solving requires a seamless, intuitive and cutting-edge modern technology. To have access to such technology and implement it in a low-income country like Zambia is very tough and expensive. Financial challenge: In order to make the impact we want and to bring a meaningful impact to our farmers, we need massive financial support.

How do you plan to overcome these challenges?

We have partnered with some NGOs that will help us address some of these challenges. We have also requested technical support from Celo blockchain to help us resolve our technology challenge. We are still looking for grant funding from various funders for this initiative. 

What does the future look like for Fourth Line?

The future of Fourth Line looks promising. We are dedicated and passionate about what we are doing. We believe Pollen is the next big thing and it will bring prosperity to farmers and enable them to bank themselves. We also believe big agricultural data and precision farming is going to help unlock farmers’ potentials. We are happy to be the first in our country to be pioneering cutting-edge modern technology in addressing big issues in agriculture and finance.


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