October 7, 2015
Honey Care Africa is a social enterprise which partners with smallholder farmers across East Africa to strengthen incomes and grow Africa’s ‘family honey company’ through sustainable beekeeping. They have been around since 2001 and operate in Kenya and Tanzania.
In 2013 they started using TaroWorks to better monitor their operations. They had found themselves spending far too much time collecting data and correcting mistakes.
They realised that they needed to focus on what they really cared about – improving farmers’ lives. In that way, TaroWorks was a route back to their core values.
Honey Care Africa’s hive technician staff were servicing 2,705 farmers with 6,000 hives spread over a huge geographical area. There were just 18 hive technicians for this daunting task.
Hive technicians have varied tasks to perform in the field but they often had to come back to HQ to deliver their paper records.
The next problem came from the practical difficulties of collecting hive inspection data with paper. For safety reasons, hives must be inspected at night and inspectors must wear thick gloves which makes inputting data tricky – because of that, each step took 30 minutes. These difficulties combined with the sheer amount of hives needing to be inspected meant that inspections of individual hives were irregular.
When using TaroWorks, the inspections took just six minutes, a massive reduction in time spent. You can see from the matrix below that, particularly with the current 11,000 hives, the time spent on inspections before TaroWorks meant repeat inspections would have been impossible.
In 2015, Honey Care Africa can inspect almost twice the number of hives in almost a third of the time.
|Honey Care Africa||2013||2015|
|No. of hives||6,000||11,000|
|Time spent on Pre-TaroWorks inspections||~125 days||~230 days|
|Time spent on Post-TaroWorks inspections||~25 days||~46 days|
Even worse, the integrity of the data was problematic. Honey Care estimate that for every 60 inspections, the information for three hives would be incorrect.
Sometimes they would notice bad information as it came in and spend time and energy scrambling to replace it; inevitably, sometimes incorrect data would slip through.
These data issues were having a notable financial impact on their organization. They estimate that the lack of real-time data was costing $8,000 per year. On top of that, Honey Care Africa estimates that the fact they lacked visibility into the productivity of the hives was costing them a further $12,000 per year.
The time they spent trying to solve data handling problems was time they couldn’t spend on other pressing issues. For instance, their model is to sell honey commercially – to do so, they need retail partners. Data was supposed to help them make more convincing pitches but, in reality, it was affecting their ability to effectively court retailers at all.
Their small team at headquarters was spending 27 hours per week on non-customer facing activities and it was hurting their business. More importantly, it was making it much harder for them to focus on delivering social impact.
“The complex logistics of our field operations, and the need to constantly gather granular information from the hives, meant that we required a powerful and easy-to-use tool to coordinate our activities”
Andrew Loebus, Head of Field Operations
The simplest breakdown of the Honey Care Africa model is this: increasing the production of honey leads to increased revenues for their farmers.
TaroWorks has positively affected the production of honey in two ways: first, by speeding up the acquisition of hives; second, by integrating processes that improved the productivity of those hives.
After adopting TaroWorks, Honey Care Africa was able to massively increase the number of hives their farmers were taking on. 4,000 hives were loaned to farmers and paid off in small increments using Kiva loans. Honey Care Africa estimates that 1500 of those hives would not have been sold without the hugely streamlined sales process on TaroWorks. These additional hives made possible by TaroWorks equates to a revenue increase of $14,158 per year.
They have subsequently found that these regularly site assessed hives produce roughly 20 percent more honey than non-assessed hives. This was an unexpected and welcome reminder of the usefulness of data in an operational context.
In general, there has been an overall increase in hive productivity of 24 percent since adopting TaroWorks. Andrew Loebus, Head of Operations for Honey Care Africa, has predicted that productivity is likely to continue to increase as day-to-day inspections become an active part of their operations. This shows that improved visibility and tracking progress of hives over time from mobile data collection has not simply reduced costs for the management team, it has added value for the farmers themselves by helping to generate improved yields.
What Honey Care Africa describes as their most important social impact metric is the percentage increase in revenue for their farmers. The difference here is staggering. Since implementing TaroWorks, they have delivered increased revenue amounting to $70,060 per year to their female farmers alone – a 74 percent improvement due to productivity increases. Ultimately, delivering this kind of income enhancement is the clearest evidence that Honey Care Africa has been able to better deliver on its mission because of TaroWorks.
With a hugely expanded total number of hives, Honey Care Africa now reaches many more people. They work directly with 2,705 farmers, tend to 11,000 hives. From the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) data they collected using TaroWorks, they know that, on average, each hive contributes income to five people – the farmer’s own family and the community of farmers in general. This means that, in total, Honey Care Africa now positively affects 55,000 people in some of the poorest and most remote areas of East Africa.
Because they are now doing fuller assessments made possible by the use of mobile devices, Honey Care Africa have also been able to target more female farmers – a metric they would like focus on more in the future. They have been able to increase the number of female farmers in their business model by 74 percent.
Honey Care Africa’s ability to better focus on their impact on farmers was also influenced by internalized results of implementing TaroWorks. Through training staff on TaroWorks, they were better able to assess good performers – people who took to learning new skills and showed enthusiasm for the change management process.
“We have staff of varying levels of technical savvy but I’ve never heard anyone complain about the usability of TaroWorks”
Andrew Loebus, Head of Field Operations
Honey Care Africa are looking to build on their successful application of TaroWorks in a number of ways. From the point of view of donors and investors, the enhanced traceability that comes with digital data is a major positive. It gives transparent insight into how money is spent, what works, and what doesn’t work. Anecdotally, donors have been impressed by the use of sophisticated mobile data management. Andrew Loebus now mentions TaroWorks in every proposal he writes.
They are also seeking to expand their usage of TaroWorks. They have developed a new job that allows them to systematically audit all hive technicians so they can compare different regions to gain new insights. They are also planning to take advantage of their field staff’s mobile devices to deliver more outreach materials to their farmers – videos and feedback are high on the list. They have found that the higher touch they are, the higher the productivity of that farmer’s hives. This increased outreach, therefore, could be a key to future growth.
Ultimately, Honey Care Africa is now on a path to growth: more hives, more farmers, and increased productivity. These three factors means that not only are they able to reach more people than ever before, they will be able to deliver better results for those people.
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TaroWorks, a Grameen Foundation company.
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