Over the weekend, zaca entered its third and fourth business plan competitions: MIT IDEAS and the SEED awards sompetition. To do this, we spent time refining our pitch and agreed on something we feel is both clear and striking. Here’s the summary we submitted to MIT IDEAS:
Every year, in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, more people are lost to emigration than to TB, AIDS, and hepatitis combined. In the past decade alone, 54% of the state’s mostly rural population has fled to the US in search of a decent living. Despite Zacateca’s fertile land, farming is no longer perceived as a viable profession; its problems are many, ranging from crop failure to exploitation by middlemen “intermedarios.” zaca is a low-cost, highly implementable solution to several of those problems. A cell phone-based platform, zaca connects farmers to one another, to the market, and to large companies. Currently, few farmers make the time and energy-intensive trip to the market to obtain prices or sell goods. Via SMS, they can query for crop price information, input yield, and exchange best-practices. Access to timely information means they can bargain collectively with middlemen, earn fair compensation, and make wiser crop-planting decisions. Companies can use zaca to place orders directly with farming cooperatives, assuring farmers a dependable income.
In April, zaca will launch a pilot project with local partner ITESM-Zacatecas. If we can successfully address the needs of Zacatecan farmers, we will deploy zaca throughout Mexico. Already 2 more states have signed up for future deployment. Zacateca’s troubles unfortunately are neither industry nor region-specific. We hope to spread zaca to distressed farming regions globally (India, particularly, where farmer suicides are a critical concern) and to industries locally (fishing, timber) where accessing and sharing vital information can maintain jobs, restart agricultural economies, and stabilise depleting communities.