Mohamed Ali Niang Fellow 2011....
Living in: Bamako — Mali
Making the phrase 'hungry farmers' an oxymoron
Operating in: Sub-Saharan Africa
Impact Area: Agriculture, Nutrition, Rural Development
"Aspiring West-African Socio-entrepreneur"
Describe yourself briefly.
I am Malian citizen that lived, studied, and worked in Ethiopia, Cameroon Niger, and France. I have in the experiences and insights into the agriculture and nutritional sector, micro finance, and project management fields in Mali.
I believe hard work, creativity and collaboration is the key of making the world better and safer place.
Describe your Unreasonable Venture in 100 words or less.
Mal^o's mission is to reduce poverty and malnutrition rates in Mali by producing and marketing rice-based products that enrich the lives of farmers and consumers. Ultimately, our ambition is to drive positive economic, social, and political change by transforming how rice is grown, processed, and marketed.
Describe your relevant experience (especially entrepreneurial).
I received the 2010 Sol Tutelman Memorial Prize and the 2011from Temple University, an award given to a student achieving the highest standards in the field of entrepreneurship. I was also honored with the Harry Halloran Social Entrepreneurship Award and the prestigious Temple’s Diamond Award, the most outstanding award a student can receive.In addition, I was on the winning team and received an honorary mention at the 2010 CIBER International Case Competition.
I was an intern at a variety of organizations dedicated to social change and poverty alleviation including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Niger, the Women's Opportunity Resource Center in Philadelphia, and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH). During these internships, I developed valuable experiences and insights into the agriculture and nutritional sector, micro finance, and project management.
Why is your team uniquely qualified to run this venture?
Our academic backgrounds, life experiences, and grassroots knowledge gives us a unique perspective on improving human development. We also have the ability communicate passionately in English, French, and Bambara and can relate to a wide array of people. From Seattle to Bamako to Ixtapa, Mexico, the Malo Traders story has resonated and we've demonstrated an ability to work and cooperate with established organizations as well as student ventures to tackle some of the world's toughest problems. We’ve also had the privilege of meeting eminent and respected individuals such as Bill Gates Sr., Senator Arlen Spector, and the Prime Minister of Mali and strongly believe that a cross-cultural social venture such as Malo Traders can be a vehicle for positive social change anywhere in the world.
What is the urgent social or environmental need you're addressing?
According to the Ministry of Health, 81% of children under 5 are anemic and 50% of deaths are attributable to malnutrition. Partly because Mali wastes enough rice to meet the needs of at least 580,000 people each year, there is an annual shortage of at least 15% despite emergency rice imports! Urban residents primarily consume poor quality imported rice and rural areas increasingly rely on imports and food aid. A burgeoning cohort of 15 to 29 year olds is fueling increasing demand for rice and career opportunities and this dynamic will exert increasing pressure on households and the government. Social peace is critical to the stability of democratic institutions and continued economic development. Our approach will empower the next generation of farmers and boost social peace.
What is your solution to this need? Describe your business strategy.
Our goal is to setup an innovative rice mill in Ségou—located in one of Africa’s biggest rice growing regions. Our strategy involves utilizing GrainPro’s hermitic storage system, modern rice processing equipment, and PATH’s award-winning Ultra Rice® technology. Being more efficient allows us to provide fortified rice at a cheaper price than imported and locally grown non-fortified rice. In addition to selling rice directly to Malian consumers, we will also supply humanitarian relief agencies and organizations that participate in school feeding programs and other relief efforts. By boosting output and improving quality, we will help Mali maintain political stability by meeting the rice needs of its citizens, creating jobs, and turning it into the rice exporting country that it should be.
Convince us it will work. What milestones have you achieved?
According to the Copenhagen Consensus, every $1 spent on micronutrient food fortification generates $17 in benefits. We continue to search for mentors, advisers and investors. We have raised just over $100,000 at 9 business plan and fellowship competitions including being selected as 2011 Echoing Green Fellows.
Furthermore, as PATH interns in the summer of 2010, we conducted a study on the feasibility of introducing rice fortified with Ultra Rice® and concluded it was financially viable and culturally appropriate. The report was based on interviews with 37 key stakeholders (government agencies, international organizations, local and international NGOs, and businesses) in Bamako, Mali and Dakar, Senegal.