Franchise developed with UNERIZ adapted for resilience of rice parboiling micro-enterprises facing the effects of COVID-19

Franchise developed with UNERIZ adapted for resilience of rice parboiling micro-enterprises facing the effects of COVID-19

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Rose Somda
Communication Coordinator

UNERIZ's mission is to defend and safeguard the interests of women rice parboilers in Burkina Faso. The organisation supports its members in accessing paddy and credit. The umbrella organization of women parboilers' cooperatives strengthens the technical and management capacities of its members; it facilitates their access to storage equipment and infrastructure and supports them in marketing parboiled rice.

UNERIZ capitalizes on and disseminates good processing practices. Rikolto has been supporting women parboilers in professionalising their rice parboiling activities since 2011. In 2014, the NGO established a partnership with UNERIZ. Its support focused primarily on the development of more efficient processing technologies. In 2017, it secured the implementation of a project to co-create a franchise for rice parboiling by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of women parboilers in Burkina Faso, in partnership with UNERIZ.

"We helped UNERIZ transform collective equipment into individual equipment and make it available to volunteer parboilers."

Michel Tougma Programme Manager at Rikolto in West Africa
Ms. Pare encourages women to adopt the franchising model to improve their income

In five years, franchising has become the business model favoured by UNERIZ. In his opinion, this model allows women to deliver good quality parboiled rice to their umbrella organisation and to increase their income. During the peak of COVID19 in Burkina Faso, imports of products were very limited, and consumers turned to locally produced foodstuffs. Having integrated the franchising model into its strategy, UNERIZ was able to meet the increased demand for parboiled rice.

"If we didn't franchise, there would be a quality problem."

Solange Pare Secretary General of UNERIZ

UNERIZ leaders have also thought about preventing their members from getting sick. They have strengthened telephone communications with the women who have been steaming, and as soon as the quarantine was lifted, they made COVID19 protection kits available to those who came to the centre .

The Permanent Secretary of UNERIZ is convinced that the franchise model developed with Rikolto contributes to the improvement of the quality of the rice offered

"COVID 19 made the acquisition of a storage centre for our products and a truck for their distribution a priority," said Alimatou TRAORE/OUEDRAOGO, Permanent Secretary of UNERIZ, on the lessons they learned from the crisis. They have thus developed a project to acquire a truck to transport members' products and a project to have a storage and sorting centre and a distribution point for parboiled rice. Also, with the support of Rikolto, UNERIZ developed a COVID19 emergency action plan to subsidise parboiling kits for new women parboilers. This plan allowed women parboilers to cope with the restrictive measures taken by the Burkinabe government during the peak of COVID19 to limit the spread of the disease. Thanks to this strategy, these women were able to continue their home-based steaming activities. In an effort to make their projects a reality, UNERIZ leaders began negotiations with a financial institution and travelled to Rikolto in West Africa. They did so because UNERIZ believes that working with Rikolto is fruitful.

"Rikolto tries to understand what the other side wants, its objectives. We learn a lot, we build change, we develop models together."

Alimatou Traore Ouedraogo Permanent Secretary of UNERIZ.

Satisfied with the quality of rice obtained from its members, even in times of crisis, UNERIZ intends to make franchising a pillar to strengthen its brand image. "We are currently considering strategies to extend the franchise model to areas not yet covered, in order to integrate willing and dynamic women into our network of franchisees," concluded Alimatou TRAORE/OUEDRAOGO.

"The franchise model we are developing with UNERIZ consists of accompanying women to create rice parboiling microenterprises to ensure quality."

Michel Tougma Programme Officer and Country Representative in Burkina Faso