Holland Greentech’s story
Building independent fresh vegetable chains in Africa
Various countries in Asia, Africa and South America are experiencing rapid population growth combined with mass migration from the countryside to urban areas. There is a growing demand for food – which is preferably also healthy, affordable, safe and sustainably produced. Due to urbanisation – and hence greater distances between the growers and the consumers – smooth-running food supply chains are increasingly important. Holland Greentech supports growers in eastern, western and southern Africa with technical advice and supply chain partnerships to ensure that consumers in cities have access to fresh and tasty vegetables.
Closer to growers
Holland Greentech was founded in 2015 following positive results from a public-private partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) in Rwanda and South Africa. The business case has been fine-tuned as necessary based on lessons learned over time. Since then, Holland Greentech has been launched in Uganda (2015), Zambia (2016), Kenya (2018), Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso (2019) and Burundi (2020). “The success of Holland Greentech depends on a number of aspects,” says Norbert van der Straaten, General Manager of Holland Greentech. “First and foremost, we must offer good products: seeds, irrigation and greenhouses. Besides that, it’s important that we train our customers in how to use the products.” Holland Greentech has already supplied starting material to thousands of vegetable producers and provided comprehensive practical training to more than 15,000 growers.
“In each country, we set up a local team of young people who all enjoy working closely with agricultural entrepreneurs. We look for local employees who are sociable and have strong communication skills. They understand the business and excel at sharing knowledge. Collaboration is very important. Our aim is to form enthusiastic teams that can work autonomously. During the recruitment process, we pay close attention to who we hire and the team dynamics. Besides that, we don’t say ‘You must sell seeds’. Instead, our core business is to provide training and guidance to growers,” continues Norbert.
“We explore how we can help each grower’s business step by step. Taking the grower’s business case as our starting point, we think about what else they need in order to make money. Together with them, we then work towards a healthy production company that can operate independently. It starts with the transfer of knowledge about crop rotation, soil quality, seeds, irrigation and crop protection,” he adds. But there is more to it than that; it is also important to consider the organisational side of the business: purchasing, input, administration and sales channels for the vegetables. “There is a considerable need for individual support. Intensive collaboration enables us to create a strong relationship with our customers. We sell our products directly to the growers, so we’re also building up our own distribution network.”
Besides collaborating with various local African companies, Holland Greentech also works together with Dutch suppliers. Vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan has been involved as a seed supplier from the start. Heleen Bos, Specialist Development Projects, has regular contact with Norbert and is positive about the partnership: “The vision of Holland Greentech, Norbert and the local teams is a good match with Rijk Zwaan’s perspective. We too believe in the added value of a personal approach and of sharing knowledge with local growers to help them strengthen their business. That’s how we – as part of the supply chain – help to provide the local population with fresh and healthy vegetables and how we contribute to the world’s food supply.”
Read more story's on www.rijkzwaan.com/csr