From farm tractor to rice factory

Donald Ola Smart, CEO of Mountain Lion Agriculture, and Jason A. Dudek met in 2009 and discovered a shared passion: a desire to help rice farmers in rural Sierra Leone grow.

Donald: "We started by renting out an agricultural tractor to farmers, paying them in kind at harvest time. Then we bought a locally manufactured rice mill powered by an engine from an excavator. The polished rice was given to women, who sold the rice and then paid the company."

There appeared to be growing interest in the local rice produced by the company.

Donald, as an alternative to the imported white rice: "We decided to do further market research which showed that consumers preferred pre-cooked whole grain rice."

However, the cleaning capacity at the simple rice mill was too limited and the rice therefore suffered from many impurities, such as sand, pebbles and chaff.

Donald: "We imported a rice mill with built-in cleaning machines. We also discovered that firewood was being used to pre-cook the rice. This causes felling of trees, which leads to deforestation. So we ordered a mechanical cooking boiler and a dryer that use the rice husk (which is a by-product) as a source of energy."

Mountain Lion Agriculture has since grown into a serious rice mill, with 4,000 member farmers.

And, have Donald and Jason managed to help farmers in rural Sierra Leone grow?

Donald: "The factory has a positive impact on rice production, which benefits farmers. Other players in the chain also benefit, such as transporters and shop owners. The poor are no longer exploited but positively affected by business."

Fair Factory Stories #2

Who are the people behind the companies we invest in? What are the challenges in different countries? And what does 'investing with impact' mean in practice? Take a look behind the scenes with the Fair Factory Stories!

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