In 2017, Balmed has started to source cashew nuts from smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone. This was the first time ever, cashew was exported officially from Sierra Leone. The Country offers excellent opportunities in the cashew sector, for cashew production and processing. Balmed is currently establishing a fully traceable cashew value chain for improved quality and increased income for rural farmers. Within the next years, Balmed expects to establish a cashew processing factory in Sierra Leone sourcing cashew nuts sustainably from ist own Blockfarms. Balmed is curently sourcing cashews. Farmers and suppliers can contact the nearest Balmed office for registration.
Balmed has been selected as a associated partner firm in the Africa Asia Pro Bono Program by the international law firm Sidley Austin LLP. The Pro Bono Program aims to provide legal advice to the world´s poorest farmers. The Sidley lawyers so far have adviced Balmed on a loan agreement. For more informations regarding the Pro Bono Program and Balmed´s role please visit the following link.
BALMED PRO BONO
In order to cope with the poor food situation in Sierra Leone, a group of NGO´s, Government institutions and private sector partners, headed by FAO gathers weekly to discuss and implement food security strategies. So far various partners have presented their ideas and solutions in the meeting. Balmed has also presented the Blockfarming concept as well as its mobile cashless payment system to the group as an innovative approach towards food security and traceability in the agriculture sector in Sierra Leone.
The African Agriculture Trade and Investment Fund has sent a consultant to Sierra Leone to assess the impact of Ebola on Balmed´s operations as well as its sourcing ability of produce for the upcoming trading cycle. Balmed has signed a trade finance agreement with AATIF in 2013 which has been put on hold due to Ebola and the State of Emergency in Sierra Leone. Balmed is looking forward to continue the trading activities, once the State of Emergency has been lifted.
The Ebola crisis has had a tremendous impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Especially vulnerable groups like widows, elderly and disabled people are the worst affected victims of the crisis. Therefore Balmed started an initiative to support disabled people in its operational areas who have lost relatives due to Ebola. The focus group are widows with children.
The EU funded project, Agriculture for Development, A4D is actively supporting Balmed in its rehabilitation and outplanting activities in the Eastern Provinces of Sierra Leone. The project provided technical assitance and inputs for Balmed´s nursery as well as for the distribution of cocoa seedlings to smallholder farmers in the project areas. A total of 335.000 cocoa seedlings have been nursed and outplanted on 300 hectare GPS surveyed farmland.
The Sierra Leone based company Microfinance Trust Ltd. has visited Balmed cocoa farmers to work out possible fields of collaboration in the agriculture sector. The project aims to provide loans to cocoa farmers to rehabilitate old and unproductive farms in order to increase quality and quantity and therefore the income of cocoa farmers.
The current Ebola outbreak has cause over 1.000 deaths and infected close to 4.000 people in Sierra Leone so far. In order to stop the spread of the disease, professional aid needs to come quick, to put rapid countermeasures in place. With its network of 20.000 rural farmers in the most affected areas in Sierra Leone, Balmed has actively joined the fight against Ebola. In partnership with the Sierra Leonean Government, as well as international organizations, the company is providing full support to rural farmers and communities, in most affected and quarantined districts.
In order to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola viral disease, Balmed is actively working on a community monitoring and data information tool by using smartphone applications syncronized with a cloud server for real time data transfer and global accessibility. Balmed futhermore looks to collaborate with national and international partners interested in data management and information technology. Interested parties can contact Balmed for a system demonstration. Collected data is displayed on a GIS-‐map and globally accessible through a cloud. Please click on the link to view current statistics: cloud.saplumira.com
Balmed Holdings signed a Funding Agreement with the African Enterprise Challenge Fund. (AECF) The company was granted an 800.000 $ facility to upscale the Blockfarming operations and plant another 3.000 acres of treecrops using the Blockfarming System. Balmed will furthermore diversify into cashew production targeting the northern parts of Sierra Leone. The project will result in 930 direct project beneficiaries and an average Net Benefit of 945 $ per household per year, when crops reach full maturity.
In order to boost and increase its cocoa and coffee sales Balmed signed Trade Finance Agreement with the African Agriculture Trade and Investment Fund. (AATIF) The AATIF is an investment fund backed by the german development bank KfW, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Bank as Investment Manager and the Common Fund for Commodities as Technical Assistance Manager. The AATIF public private partnership facility provides various funding sources ranging from loans to equity investment.
In collaboration with the Mobile Empowerment Emerging Markets Research Department of the German based software firm SAP, Balmed is implementing a digital traceability system based on a mobile app, developed by SAP. The app is installed on smartphones, that are used by the Balmed staff to purchase products and track products through the whole supply chain digitally. The system clearly visualizes the operational areas and plantation sizes using GIS mapping. So far Balmed has submitted its masterdata to SAP for syncronisation and app configuration and has tested a first trial version of the app. The 2 year pilot shall „go live“ in the beginning of 2014. The digital product flow allows a exact monitoring of bying processes and gives a detailed overview of the total purchases and sales of the business.
The newly established Moringa Partnership Fund is an international investment vehicle focussing on sustainable agriculture business models. The fund is backed by the swiss based Compagnie Benjamin de Rothschild, a part of the Edmond de Rothschild Group and the French National Forest Office (ONFI) as technical advisor to the fund. The fund manager Martin Poulsen visited Balmed and the cocoa plantations to learn more about Balmed´s Blockfarming system and the Sierra Leonean cocoa sector.
Balmed successfully passed the first round of the 3rd Call for Proposals of the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). A sitemanager from the Common Fund will be visiting Balmed in January 2014, to see the companies operational structures and discuss further investment options. The Common Fund for Commodities is also the TA (Technical Assistance) Manager of the African Trade and Investment Fund (AATIF). The Balmed Proposal will be presented during the 53rd meeting of the Consultative Committee of the CFC held in Amsterdam.
In a joint partnership with the Dutch Private Sector Investment Programme (PSI) Balmed establish 400 hectar cocoa plantation in close cooperation with the Dutch agriculture firm AMS B.V. as lead implementing agency. The project is a partnership between Theobroma B.V., Capitol Trading Company, Commodity Trading Company and Balmed Holdings, jointly forming AMS B.V. The project outcome will be a 1000 hectar cocoa plantation using the Blockfarming System and 280 youths benefiting from increased income through the sales of cocoa and intercrops.
In cooperation with the Sierra Leonean Government, the European Union launched a 16 Million Euro agricultural project, Agriculture for Development (A4D) in Sierra Leone. The project mainly focusses on employment creation and sustainable cash crop production aiming cocoa, coffee and cashew. The leading implementing agencies are the german NGO Welthungerhilfe, the Italian Development Cooperation COOPI and the National Research Institution of Greenwich University. Balmed has recently signed a cooperation agreement for planation rehabilitation and establishment of new plantations (Blockfarming) under the A4D project.
On the 11th november 2013, the Irish based NGO Goal International was visiting the Balmed Store in Kenema to see the companies operations and find out more about the working relations with cocoa farmers in the Kenema District. Goal Internatioal mainly focusses on humanitarian projects like healthcare, water sanitation and hygiene. Balmed is looking forward to a possible cooperation with the NGO on selected projects.
In 2013 the German NGO Sankofa e.V. donated a full container load of football items, office equipment and other items like sewing machines or music instruments. The items were collected from the members of the charity club in Germany and then shipped to Sierra Leone. The items were distributed by Balmed to the various communities and to the Adult Literacy classes Balmed is working with. The football items, containing shoes, jerseys, protectors and balls were given to 4 clubs in the Kailahun and Pujehun Districts.
Due to an international fast increasing bee colony collapse and it consequential impact on pollination as well as its longterm effects on the food supply chain, international research organisations focussing on bee production and its positive environmental outcomes. It is proven that for example apiculture on cashew plantation significantly improves pollination and thereof resulting in increased cashew production. The Netherland NGO Cordaid recently visited Balmed to discuss and exchange knowledge about the honey sector in Sierra Leone. Especially the combination with cashew plantations could make future honey projects sustainable for a long term supply chain, mainly for in-country marketing of honey in larger quantities as well as end-customer packaging.
German Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, Dirk Niebel, visited the cocoa project in Sierra Leone.
On the 7th of August 2012 the german federal minister Dirk Niebel visited Sierra Leone on his travel through West-Africa. The politician warranted for development funds from the german government of about 6 Mio € in the coming 3 years to assists Sierra Leones growing economy and contribute to youthemployment and private sector development. Niebel visited a traide fair event, hosted by the German International Cooperation (GIZ) to find out more about the cocoa and coffee value chain. Representatives of Balmed presented a small jute bag of original Balmed beans to the minister. We hope he enjoyed our tasty beans :)
To guarantee the best quality juice, the fruits needs to be processed direct from the farm, in order to conserve the natural aroma and vitamins. Therefore the american based company Firststep built up a juicefactory within a free economic zone in Sierra Leone. The fairtrade certified production company invests in sustainable agriculture and outplants pineapple plantations in the "backyard" of the company. The pineapples are planted in a circumcircle around the processing plant, to reduce logistics and beware the natural freshness of the fruits. Since july 2012 the farmers in the surrounding areas made agreements with the company to plant pineapples with the Balmed Blockfarming© System. According to the fairtrade standarts the farmer are getting paid a higher price for their agricultural product, when they sell the fruits to the company.
250 acres of new farmland for sustainable pineapple production.
The farmers in the surrounding area agreed to start the pineapple plantations on the selected plots under the Blockfarming© System. In a jointventure with AFC (African Felix Juice) Balmed set up the first plots togehter with the participating farmers, who got supported with tools, trainingsmaterials, and improved pineapple-varieties.
The majority of the youths in Sierra Leone are big football fans. Both the men and women. Since 2010 Balmed built up and supports over 8 teams from the rural areas. We have teams in Mobai (Kailahun District), Kono, Kenema Pujehun and Bo. The teams are supported by Balmed with footballs, shoes, shirts and pants. They play matches against each other or other clubs within the area. The teams can win a trophy; the best players become selected for the "HAWKS UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB" in Freetown. Hawks united is a Division one football club in Freetown.
"The football society needs strong improvements here in Sierra Leone; we must give our youths an opportunity to show of their talents and to give them some freetime activity. In the most countries young men and women can afford a ball to play. Not here in Sierra Leone. Thats why we founded these teams, to give them the opportunity to play."
Said George Williams, the manager of the HAWKS Football Club. All players who join the Hawks Foorball Club are professional players who get paid for playing football.
Honey was the first sweet known in human consumption. Even the very early prehistoric men used honey as a natural source of carbonhydrates. Honey is widely used in pastries, bakings, as sweetener in tea and coffee and for breakfast. The honey from Sierra Leone comes from pesticide free farmlands across the country. Its aromatic and sweet flavour has already a growing fandom in Sierra Leone.
Various NGO´s are working on the development of the honey value chain and the marketing of the products.
The development agency FAO supported farmgroups who are involved in honeyproduction. 2 Groups were identified in the Koinadugu District; The farmer groups received intensive training on honeyproduction, health and hygenic conditions and food security. FAO installed propper buildings for small scale honey processing, Balmed supported the project with beekeeping equipment and apiculture tools. A challenging task is the sound labelling and packaging. Balmed uses glasses and designed labels to attract customers. The honey is available in assorted supermarkets across the country, especially Freetown.
The soil in Sierra Leone is very fertile. As soon as you drop a seed, it will germinate within few days. Balmed outplanted since 2009 over 1500 acres of new cocoa plantations in various districts. After the landagreements were done between the company and the farmer, nurseries for young cocoa seedlings were established. Since 2009 over 450.000 new cocoa trees have been outplanted under the Balmed Blockfarming© System. In cooperation with the University of Freetown all plantations have been GPS measured, to get the exact data, how many land each farmers is responsible for. After the GPS measuring all the land have been legal registered together with the Government of Sierra Leone.
In 2011 we had some interesting visitors. The german singer and Fairtrade supporter Annett Louisan came together with Dieter Overath, performing director of Fairtrade Germany and Wolfgang Jamann, director of WHH (german agro action), to visit the cocoa project. The delegation vivisted the farmers in their villages to check on the fair working conditions.
"Fairtrade can support cooperatives like MCGC with marketing. With the Fairtrade certification it is easier to have market access."
Said Dieter Overath, performing director of Fairtrade Germany. Hence the cooperative set up an internal control system with all its participating farmers, to guarantee fair labour conditions and preclude child labour. Currently all 7000 participating farmers are certified against the Fairtrade Code of Conduct.