Pia Villa is a senior marketing manager at innocent drinks. She is also this year’s innocent foundation scholar, which means she's spending 10 days with Send a Cow in 2016. innocent offers three scholarship placements each year, enabling their staff to work with the foundation's charity partners like us. 

Pia recently travelled to Uganda and Kenya to meet Send a Cow farmers for herself and see innocent's funding in action. She's going to be helping us better understand how our farmers access markets in Africa. We asked her if she would write about her experience - and here it is:

"Pia and Simon in NakisenyiI’ve been in the global marketing team at innocent drinks for three years. I have always been immensely proud of the work that the innocent foundation does with its partners such as Send a Cow. So when I recently had the opportunity to work on a project in Uganda and Kenya on behalf of the innocent foundation, I was excited to do my bit.

Given my experience in marketing, I was asked to analyse the barriers that farmers face in accessing markets and come up with recommendations on how Send a Cow can further improve its training. As part of this project, I visited several Send a Cow groups to understand how they market and sell their produce.

On my first day in Uganda, I met Simon and other Send a Cow graduates in Nakisenyi. As it was the first visit of my trip, I was quite nervous and not sure what to expect. But the group made me feel so welcome and were really open, despite the language barrier! They showed me around their homes and fields, and explained that they grow groundnuts and sell them to wholesalers in Kampala.

Fatuma on her farmI was impressed to see how they have used their Send a Cow training to organise their marketing – they keep records, add value by un-shelling the nuts and sell together as a group to get higher prices. The best part of the visit was to see and hear how their lives have improved through Send a Cow. Simon told me that he is now able to pay school fees for his kids and recently bought solar panels for his roof and a TV for the family.

I then met Fatuma and her family. What immediately struck me was Fatuma’s big smile whenever she talked about her life, home and vegetable farm. She proudly showed me her new stove and got her grandson to show me the new ‘tip tap’ that Send a Cow taught them to use. All those things she is now
able to afford due to the surplus of vegetables she produces.

Fatumas son demonstrates the tip tapI was pleased to hear that she usually contacts several traders and sells to the one with the highest price. I also encouraged her to think about other ways of accessing markets, such as selling directly to vendors, or bulking her produce with other group members to get even better prices.

Overall, it’s been an amazing experience to work with Send a Cow and understand more about their approach, meet some of their farmers and see how their lives have improved.

I’ve been busy working on my report in the last weeks and hope that my recommendations will help the team train farmers how best to decide what to grow for the market and how to evaluate the different ways of accessing them.

A big thanks to Pamela, Joyce, Stephen and Sheila from Send a Cow Uganda and Alfred, Silas, Maurice, Fanuel and Daniel from the Kenyan team for hosting me and helping me with my questions!"

It's great to have Pia on board, sharing her expertise with us to make our work even more effective. Many thanks to Pia and to innocent for making it possible.