There are many actors involved in this initiative. Who are they and how do you ensure harmonious collaboration?
Many public and private actors are indeed participating in the initiative, in Belgium and in Benin. Without listing them all, I'll point out the most important ones. On the one hand, two private technology companies are involved. Here, in Benin, Global Partners, a start-up, is putting in place technological tools to interpret the images collected by drones. It is supported by VITO, a Belgian research centre specialised in developing solutions based on aerial imaging. It also takes care of quality assurance of the solutions developed. Enabel funds the implementation of the solution, including the development of the algorithms needed to interpret the images.
A steering group comprises the DEFIA programme, the Benin Interprofessional Pineapple Association and the Benin Ministry of Agriculture’s Land and Agriculture Development Agency and Information Systems Directorate. This involvement is crucial for us, as it is an essential condition for the sustainability of the system. Finally, we are also working with TechnoServe, an NGO that is running a similar project in the cashew nut sector in Benin with the Wehubit programme. The Wehubit programme is implemented by Enabel. It invests in digital high-impact projects.
Enabel also is a facilitator. We want to avoid double work and to ensure that the work of each actor complements that of others. When our intervention is over, the responsibility for this solution will be in the hands of the Agriculture Development Agency, who will go to the pineapple growers and provide them with the advice.
You stress the need to come up with a cost-effective solution for all parties involved. Why does it matter?
The affordability of the solution is the main guarantee that it will last. The fact that the grower can benefit from this service at an affordable cost, especially in view of productivity gains and access to new markets, removes a first obstacle to sustainability. If the solution is self-financing, it does not depend on external financing. Ditto for private sector players: if profitability is at the rendezvous, the question of sustainability is quickly resolved!
With the coverage of the cost of developing the algorithm, the experimental aspect inherent in any innovation activity, profitability was ensured for all parties. Moreover, the solutions put in place for the pineapple sector can probably be applied to other sectors or be used in other countries, which ensures the Benin start-up new opportunities for growth and, of course, business. Everyone's a winner!