Providing access to Healthcare in rural areas in Ghana through the Cowtribe program
How to improve veterinary supply chain for small farmers in hard-to-reach rural areas in Ghana? Cowtribe’s social entrepreneurs win our Accelerator Program using motorbikes to help communities accomplish the mission.
Following the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development and its common blueprint for peace and prosperity, Boehringer Ingelheim aims to contribute to it by creating a healthier tomorrow for animals, humans, and communities. This commitment is what inspires us to support social entrepreneurs all over the world – like Cowtribe. With the mission of delivering preventive vaccines and animal medicines to small farmers in hard-to-reach rural areas across Ghana, this young start-up won the Making More Health Accelerator Program thanks to their integrated approach: use of technology, innovative supply chain, logistics and… motorbikes!
“We realized some alarming numbers. There are over 200 million smallholder farmers across Africa who live in very hard-to-reach locations. Around 80 percent of the veterinary products they get are either fake or below international standards. That means at least 50 percent of their income is lost every year on preventing diseases in the wrong way. We felt an urge to act and find new ways of reaching these farmers and their animals wherever they are,” recalls Alima Bawah, co-founder of Cowtribe.
More than 34,000 smallholder farmers assisted
The start-up was founded in 2017 to support farmers in rural areas with no - or limited - access to animal health. In order to reinforce the prevention of diseases in livestock, the company stores and dispenses vaccines, parasiticides, and other medications needed by families in remote areas. Facilitating animal health in the country requires smart planning. Cowtribe put together a package of veterinary products a farmer may need into an annual basket composed of vaccination, parasiticides and supplements. Furthermore, technical veterinary advice and information are always available digitally, through community’s farmer group leaders, and through SMS at any time.
Since then, the company has managed to make livestock vaccines and medicines accessible and affordable to 34,.000 farmers through 150,.000 deliveries. Last year, the team decided it was time to do more for families whose animals are not only companions, but also their major source of income. They wanted to assist more families while also making sure animal health remained affordable.
“In Ghana, it’s quite common that families in very remote communities keep livestock around their houses. If their animals fall ill, they have a serious problem, both emotionally and economically. Usually, access to those areas is so complicated that only a few individuals who happen to live near a store can have a chance of getting proper medication. We needed to change that and we knew that if we could go further to reach more families, we could also guarantee up to 30 percent in discounts due to a higher purchase volume. A win-win situation,” says Alima.
Distribution hubs and motorbikes for better supply chain
The solution to overcome the poor road infrastructure could come on two wheels. Motorbikes serving distribution centers, a safe distribution hub located in Tamale, Northern Ghana. From there, stocks could supply local fulfillment centers, which, in the end, would enable distributors to deliver the relief needed in a more reliable and agile supply chain. In some cases, the waiting time for a medicine delivery fell from 14 days to only 48 hours.
From a social entrepreneurship, it was clear that Cowtribe had an efficient plan able to become a viable business benefiting all parties involved. Expanding and refining its activities was possible thanks to the Making More Health Accelerator Program, an 11-month framework to support social entrepreneurs in the health space through co-creation, financial and business expertise support. As one of the last year’s finalists, the start-up earned a prize of 200,000 euros to further invest in its supply chain.
“The supply chain management is a complex affair involving dozens of questions: what do we purchase and where? Where and how do we store products? And how does a certain product get to the customer in the most reliable way? We suggested paths and together created a manual to guide good practice,” shares Jan-Cassen Kraus, from the Animal Health Global Supply Chain Management.
Last year, Kraus, who is based in Germany, not only spent three weeks in Tamale and its surroundings working with the group to better understand the realities on the ground, but he is still in close contact offering advice on how to improve.
“The beauty of this partnership is that we collaborate as equal partners. We are interested in exchanging knowledge and in sustainable development for everyone alike. We work with Cowtribe, listening to their needs and developing solutions the way they need. Imposing European methods is counterproductive, Ghanaians know better than us how to be locally successful and we can learn a lot on agility,” he notes.
Now, plans are even more ambitious.
“We believe our model can be replicated in other African countries such as Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Mali. We’ll work hard to bring more animal health to everyone across the continent,” concludes Alima.