“Developing Sustainable Agriculture Through Knowledge Sharing And A Distribution Platform”
“Developing Sustainable Agriculture Through Knowledge Sharing And A Distribution Platform”
Project Summary
Le Velo Vert has been operational since February 2012 through a series of activities and micro projects aimed at sensitizing youth, farmers and other NGOs on the importance of sustainable and organic agriculture. Le Velo Vert is an NGO duly registered with the Registrar of Association on the 08th of January 2014 (Reg no: 13687)

According to the FAO (FAS Statistical Yearbook 2013), the total value of organic food and beverages sold worldwide in 2011 was almost US$63 billion, some US$4 billion higher than in 2010. The organic market has been growing considerably since 2002, and – unlike the rest of the food sector – and has continued to grow, despite the global economic slowdown.

Contrary to the global trend towards more Sustainable Agriculture, prompted by higher customer awareness in developed countries, there has been very few efforts in certified organic farming development in Mauritius (other than initiatives led through the GEF-SGP assistance). Yet the organic trend is gradually seeping its way into the Mauritian Landscape. The last few years met with the setting up of a few suppliers of imported organic products (e.g. Axios Ltd) in the posh areas of Mauritius (Floreal, Grand Bay, Tamarin). Organic products (processed foods, cereals, drinks etc.) also became increasingly available on the hypermarket shelves.

As far as fresh farm produce is concerned, Le Velo Vert noticed that there is no organized system for the marketing of fresh farm produce of local farmers. We then took up the challenge of pilot testing a distribution platform for locally produced organic fruits and vegetables, after having visited and carefully selected a group of farmers producing according to organic principles.

Since February 2011, the distribution network of Le Velo Vert has grown steadily and nowadays represents:
• 6 days of delivery per week, in 6 regions of the island
• 132 organic baskets delivered per week
• 180 kilometres covered per day
• 543 subscribers to the online newsletter
• 681 likes on our facebook page
• 70 families on the waiting list

The growth in the interest in home delivered organic produce has been amazing, unexpected but serves to reinforce our commitment in this initiative. However, with the limited facilities of our association, it is difficult to satisfy the needs of increasing number of ‘sustainable agriculture advocates’ unless the following constraints are addressed:
• The limited capacity for product delivery of Le Velo Vert
• The lack of farms involved in certified organic production

Assistance is hence required in the following areas, which we have categorized in two phases:
Phase A: Development of the logistics & distribution platform; and Enhancing sensitisation and communication on the availability and benefits of fresh locally grown Organic farm produce.

Phase B: Setting up a model Organic Farm for capacity building, knowledge sharing on sustainable agriculture, and sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable groups through employability.

This request for assistance is submitted to the GEF-SGP to assist Le Velo Vert in some of the main elements of Phase A, namely:
• Logistics: One delivery van and a software for planning
• The Ecocert Certification
• Support for additional personnel (preparation assistants for organic baskets)
• Operation costs and insurances

12 Organizational Background and Capacity to implement the project
LE VELO VERT is local non-governmental organization (NGO), duly registered since 8 January 2014 The NGO has been active since February 2012 with numerous projects at grass root level in order to develop, promote and assist the emergence of a vibrant network of organic fruits and vegetable producers.

Our vision is that one day, we would all voluntarily move away from the destructive conventional farming practices and embracing organic farming at national level

The idea behind our NGO stems from Geraldine’s determination refusing to feed her baby Charlize vegetable porridge produced from some locally available vegetables that may potentially contain dangerous chemicals . She was alerted by her pediatrician to avoid calebasse, patisson etc. which are more porous vegetables and more prone to absorb chemicals, especially during the until the age of three, where the child has not yet developed her immune system.

Originally from Belgium, Geraldine’s family assisted in the development of the first Organic retail shops of her country, back in the 1970’s. She has always been bred in an environment where lot of value is provided to freshly farmed products, without any chemical input. On talking to her neighbours she noted the keen interest of lots of people around in obtaining such vegetables, except that:
• They did not know where to get it from
• They did not have to possibility of travelling to various farms in order to purchase them.

So Geraldine took off to visit farms operating locally in order to buy and distribute for herself, families and neighbours, her first basket of organic vegetables. Following her trips to farms in February and March 2012, such visits became more and more regular, with orders increasing at each farm visit.










Chart 1: Trends in delivery baskets, Feb 2012 to Feb 2014


Geraldine was making the delivery by herself in the autovan after office hours from the start. With the growing demand, she recruited a driver in April 2013 to assist in the delivery.
The number of baskets increased steadily to reach a peak of 306 weekly baskets delivered in November 2013.
In December 2013, one of the main suppliers requested Le Velo Vert to distribute only products from its farm. Since this is against the policy of Le Velo Vert, that is promoting the growth of a network of Organic Vegetable producers in Mauritius, Le Velo Vert stopped working with this important supplier.
Since the remaining suppliers could not provide the amount of vegetables demanded, it leading to a shortfall of baskets supplied early in year 2014.
However, production is picking up gradually as Le Velo Vert is in the process of developing new networks and collaborations with farmers ,including former beneficiaries of GEF-SGP.


Legend: The Organic Basket, Source:L’Express Dimanche, 19th May 2013

To date, LE VELO VERT has led the following farm visits, educational and sensitization activities:
Date Activity Outcome
February 2012 Visit to an eco-certified Agribio Ltd at La Ferme, Bambous Plot of land of 2 acres earmarked for organic projects
March 2012 Start of trial distribution of 12 baskets organic vegetables monthly in Plaines Wilhems Region 3 families targeted and delivery done by Geraldine
June 2012 Development of ‘Le Vélo Vert’ logo Logo used on promotional materials
October 2012 Broadening of distribution network 72 baskets delivered and distribution in Port Louis and Northern Coastal regions
December 2012 Recruitment of Driver New regions targetted
January 2013 Delivery days increased to 5 days + Broadening of distribution network 140 baskets delivered, distribution in the West Coast and East Coast
June 2013 MBC Radio Sensitisation Programme on environement protection (organised by Ms Nathalie Didier) Le Velo Vert invited to participate and share information on its activities and obtain lots of online and follow-up calls requesting delivery of baskets across the island
September 2013 Visit and selection of new farms (Les Jardins de Chamarel, Nathalie Daruty, Mr Fayol, Micheal Rountree, Motet, La Vieille Cheminee) for supply of vegetables 8-10 farms interested in the certification process
October 2013 The Association confirms its aim to be the distribution platform for all organic farms Strict selection criteria developed in the form of a charter aimed at procuring fruits/vegetables only from organic farms
October 2013 Web site created www.levelovertilemaurice.org/

December 2013 Delivery days extended to 6 days a week Distribution network extended to Mahebourg region
January 2014: Meeting with Fondation Ressources et Nature (FORENA) on Organic Certification Collaboration to put in place certified organic production systems in existing and new farms using EU Organic Production Standards
February 2014 Participation in “Green Day’s” and public awareness exercise at Cap Tamarin Approx 900 visitors attended the exhibition
March 2014 Conference at Lycee Labourdinnais, Curepipe 28 students attended the presentation and more sessions scheduled
March 2014 Organisation of “Bol d’Air”: the first day out families and kids with all producers, consultants, trainers, farmers and suppliers that are working with LE VELO VERT, organized at Chazal. 238 visitors attended, sharing information, discuss and find solutions on organic farming issues
April 2014 Le Velo Vert has been invited by Phoenix Beverages Ltd to a sensitization event at Residence Mangalkhan Sensitise inhabitants on healthy consumption pattern and the possibilities of developing small plots of organic agriculture


Consumer awareness
Following the interventions of Le Velo Vert, we noted that:
• Consumers are very receptive and sensitive to the information/training activities and are willing to shift to organic alternatives (approx 1,500 in direct sensitizations and two radio programmes to target the masses)
• Consumers are not aware that the more beautiful looking vegetables may be containing more chemicals and are potentially dangerous for health
• Consumers are very adamant on getting safer food, even if it implies that the vegetables may be sub-standard in shape, size or may contain a few worms
• The demand is far more important than the availability in the fields (we get orders for 150 baskets per week and can supply only 80)

Pricing policy

The customer feedback has shown that the pricing of baskets according to size (small at Rs300.00, medium at Rs 500.00 and big at Rs 800.00), representing the cost of the vegetables and Rs 80.00 of fuel cost, is acceptable to customers

Indicative contents of a small basket
(Rs 300.00) Indicative contents of a family basket
(Rs 500.00)

Banane 6 Unité

Aubergine 0.5 Kg
Betterave rouge 1 Unité
Calebasse 0.5 Unité
Chou chou 1 Unité
Chou vert 0.5 Unité

Lalo 0.3 kg
Poireaux 1 Unité
Avocat 2 Unité

Fruits de la passion 0.2 Kg
Aubergine 0.5 Kg

Calebasse 1 Unité
Chou chou 2 Unité
Chou vert 0.5 Unité
Haricot extra fin 0.3 kg
Lalo 0.3 kg
Poireaux 2 Unité



Target Revenue
The income generated has been increasing steadily from Rs 79,311 in January 2014 to Rs 139,329 in March 2014.

With the support of the GEFSGP and other supporting agencies, the number of baskets delivered is expected to reach 700 by December 2014 and 1,310 by December 2015. On the basis of such projections income is expected to reach Rs 600,000 in December 2014 and Rs 1.2 M by December 2015.

These funds will be used to cover the daily running costs, and the incidentals. Funds will also be used to extend the surface cultivated and assist in the follow-up support for the network of farmers.

Chart 1:Current trends fand forcast income from sales of Organic Baskets



Farm perspective
It has not been easy going to find appropriate suppliers to be included in the network Age old practices die hard, making it difficult for some farmers to evolve. Geraldine has met numerous farmers who wanted to sell their products through her association.

However for lack of commitment or good understanding of organic farming methods, these products could not be included in the basket. Some farmers argue that they practice ‘agriculture raisonée’, making use of the recommended/minimal doses of chemicals only when required. These farmers are also excluded.

In order to make the selection criteria more objective, Le Velo Vert developed and published on its web site a simple Charter, explaining the do’s and don’t’s of organic farming:














For the time being, Le Velo Vert sources its products from the following operators:

Product category Sources of products
Vegetables and fruits Les Jardins de Chamarel
Agribio Ltd (from February 2011 to August 2012 )
La Vieille Cheminée
Telluvest Ltd
Mr Micheal Rountree
Mr Motet
M Stephane Leclezio
Poultry (élevée en plein air) Natura Ltd
Honey Laribees of Madagascar
Flowerad
Various branded organic food products (flour, cereals, pulses, ) La Vie Claire, France
Chicken eggs (des poulets élevée en plein air) Inicia, under discussion
As demand is increasing, there is hence a need to grow more organic vegetables and the seven farms supplying vegetables are not sufficient. In addition none of the farms are certified organic.

The constraints at farm level are:
• Difficulty to get people with past experience in agriculture, to work along new production methods.
• Smaller farmers new to organic production are uncertain on whether they will be able to break even / obtain reasonable yields. They are hence hesitant to convert to organic methods of production.
• Small famers have limited facilities to market their products on their own

The product delivery plan is currently as follows:
Day Region Locality
Monday Western region Le Morne, Rivière Noire, Tamarin, Flic en Flac
Tuesday Upper Plaines Wilhems Ebène, Q Bornes, Vacoas, St Paul, Curepipe, Floréal
Wednesday Port Louis Rose Hill, B Bassin, Pte aux Sables, Port Louis, Pailles, Moka
Thursday Nortern region Grand Baie
Friday Noth and Eastern region Pamplemousses, Piton, Roches Noires, Flacq, Trou d'eau douce
Saturday South eastern region Mahebourg, Pointe d'Esny, Blue Bay

Le Velo Vert is willing to work with more local farmers big or small, in order to provide greater quantity and variety of organic vegetables and fruits

Web site and Online ordering

In order to facilitate information sharing on organic farming, products available and ordering of organic baskets, Le Velo Vert has put in place a web site: http://wwwlevelovertilemauriceorg/



Event organisation for networking

Le Velo Vert is also actively involved in event organization, meetings and activities (exhibition, farmer networking, supplier contacts, workshops etc) among operators in this field of activity. Such meeting, which we coined “Bol D’Air”, are open air events with a mix of activities and an ideal day-out for families. The last “Bol D’Air” was held on the 29th of March 2014.



Organisation structure of the NGO

Le Velo Vert has 150 members (who have registered on the web site, and paying an annual membership fee), all dedicated to consuming Organic products. We are supported by a team of volunteers who contribute their knowledge, time & effort, and leverage networks in order to structure and develop the activities of Le Velo Vert

Name Role in the NGO Role in the project Professional Occupation and experience (past / current)
Geraldine d’Unienville President Head of projects - ensures proper development of projects, project viability regroups stakeholders and establishers partnerships / linkages, Distribution coordinator and actively involved in product distribution Worked in the Finances and Contract Procurement Unit of EUROPEAID, Brussels,
Currently director of Direct Mail Mauritius, a direct marketing services company
Albert d’Unienville Vice President Farming Management -Supports in the development of organic sites, has a good sense of organisation, planification, and team motivation Marketing Manager in Eco-friendly, Sport and Nature Events at Lux Resorts
Karen Chavoix Assistant Secretary Supports logistic development, culinary /vegetables transformation and value added potential in food processing Tennis Coach and Home Designer and former Tennis champion
Dominique d’Unienville Treasurer Implements and ensures good accounting and procurement practices, ensuring accountability and value for money
Strong Banking and financial experience, Senior Accountant at Mauritius Commercial Bank
Frederic Robert Assistant Treasurer Assists in logistic requirements for land development, facilitates access to land, access to agricultural equipments, supervises labour and payments issues Director of Saint Felix Sugar Estate, owner of agricultural lands, involved in sugar estate and agricultural land management for the last 20years
Alain Charpentier Member Provides technical support in organic agriculture, irrigation, plant propagation and pest control French consultant in Agro-Ecology, Iridologist, Nathuropaty


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13 Project Objectives and Expected Results

? Problem statement

Environmental and Health Issues
Conventional agriculture, especially when accompanied by an excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers lead to important health and environmental risks, namely:
• Damaging the soil, air and impact on biodiversity and climate change
• Some studies associate excessive chemicals in food (above code recommended mlr) to immune system deficiencies
• Some researchers believe that there cumulative impact (longer term) consuming food containing chemicals even if proportions are below recommended requirements (Source: Bempah et al. 2012 :Journal of Microbiology, Biotechnology anf Food Sciences, 2 (3) 850-871)

At consumer level:
• Lack of awareness - people have a tendency to consume nice and beautiful looking vegetables, when these could be potentially dangerous for health
• Consumers who are aware and interested to buy organic products do not have the means or the time to purchase same at farm gate

There a number of farm level constraints for development of organic agriculture:
• Lack of labour sensitization to organic production principles
• Lack of awareness of organic production systems and uncertainty on yields
• Limitations on availability of some farm inputs (eg certified seeds)
• Limited marketing facilities for farmers (especially small and isolated ones)

? Primary objective
To promote education and sensitization on sustainable agriculture, facilitate accessibility of organic vegetables by developing an effective distribution platform

Le Velo Vert, through a more developed distribution platform, aims at ensuring that all organic farm produce will be marketed. It will facilitate the linkage between farms and consumers. This distribution platform will also serve to reinforce the interest and commitment of farmers in the organic production system.

? Specific objectives
The specific objectives of this project, categorised into two phases are as follows:
Phase A:
• Enhancing Sensitisation and Communication on Organic Products to enhance awareness
• Further development of the distribution platform for Organic Products to better reach out to the Mauritian population
• Extend assistance and support to farmer to engage in a Certified Organic Production System

Phase B:
• Setting up of a model Organic Farm for capacity building, knowledge sharing among farmer community
• Enhance skills of unemployed / vulnerable and develop ‘green jobs’ in the field of organic agriculture

? rationale
• The use and abuse of chemicals in agriculture is dangerous for heath and the environment
• Organic agriculture has seen tremendous economic growth worldwide and this has been mainly demand-driven, as consumers have become increasingly concerned with the safety of conventionally-grown foods. Mauritius is no exception, since each individual and family aspires for safer and healthier food.
• In the absence of legislation on organic agriculture in Mauritius, it is important to put in place measures for consumer protection through certification. This will provide greater visibility to farmers adopting sustainable agricultural practices
• At sector level this project aims at revitalizing the agricultural sector, especially small farmers, by opening up opportunities for productive use of idle arable land, or conversion to organic production
• At social level, this project provides for economic integration of vulnerable groups, including employment of women as capacity building and job opportunities will be available in all regions where organic farms will be developed
• At national level this project will help reduce the use of chemicals in farms, hence contributing to damaging the environment. The use of compost will be favoured (30% subsidy), which is in line with the Maurice Ile Durable Programme

? Specific results

Specific Objective 1: Enhancing Sensitisation and Communication on Organic Products to enhance awareness
? Outreach targeting some 2,000 people annually from:
- Participation in exhibitions related to health, social, agriculture or empowerment
- Organization of “open farm” called “BOL d’AIR” day, four times a year allowing visitors to meet with their farmers and producers, on their premises
- Organising regular events in the villages around the farm, to inform and sensitise villagers and encourage the training of farmers in organic practices
- Experience sharing through workshops with other organization / NGO’s

Specific Objective 2: Further development of the distribution platform for Organic Products to better reach out to the Mauritian population
? Increase the number of delivery from 200 baskets to 850 baskets per month within 12 months
? Avail of the facilities of a refrigerated truck available to ensure the distribution to clients

Specific Objective 3: Extend assistance and support to farmer to engage in a Certified Organic Production System
? 10 planters certified after 2 years
? At least 2 arpents under Organic Production Systems
? Production of vegetables and delivery of baskets increase to at least 1,500 per month

Specific Objective 4: Setting up of a model Organic Farm for capacity building, knowledge sharing among farmer community
? One model farm established at Chamouny

Specific Objective 5: Enhance skills of unemployed / vulnerable and develop ‘green jobs’ in the field of organic agriculture
Training of 10 planters in organic agricultural techniques after 2 years.
10-20 green jobs developed along the value chains (farming to delivery)

 
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Project Snapshot

Grantee:
Le Vélo Vert Association
Country:
Mauritius
Area Of Work:
Biodiversity
Land Degradation
Chemicals
Operational Phase:
Phase 5
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 297,285.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 14,950.00
Project Number:
MAR/SGP/OP5/YR3/CORE/CH/14/07
Start Date:
4/2014
End Date:
3/2016
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Gender Focus
It is expected that a bigger proportion of future farm workers will be women. This project will pay particular attention to the sensitization of women in villages to work in the fields since women are considered more receptive and sensitive to environmental values and rigorous at work. As a result, this project will increase the capacity of women to contribute to their family income, in an environmentally sustainable manner. Women will be helped by male colleagues for heavy work (e.g transport of heavy boxes).
Significant Participation of Indigenous Peoples
NA
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Indicators
Biophysical
Number of globally significant species protected by project 21
Biophysical
Hectares of globally significant biodiversity area protected or sustainably managed by project 8
Empowerment
Number of women participated / involved in SGP project 26

Partnership

Corson Tea Estate Ltd, FORENA, APEIM, SAFIRE, OpenMind

Grantee Contact

Mrs. Geraldine D'Unienville
Phone: 5259 3630
Email: levelovertilemaurice@gmail.com
 

Address

Lees Street,
Curepipe ,

SGP Country office contact

Mrs. Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo
Phone:
(230) 213 53 84
Fax:
(230) 212 14 11
Email:
Miss Mishka Bundhoo
Phone:
(230) 213 53 84
Fax:
(230) 212 14 11
Email:

Address

2nd Floor, Sugar Industry Pension Fund Building, 1 Remy Ollier Street
Port Louis, Mauritius

Country Website