What innovative approach does Al Mawsam take to address socio-economic and developmental inefficiencies in the country?
Al Mawsam acts as a ‘Gateway’ mechanism to provide buffering intermediate and mediation services to counteract the limitations on local smallholder’s production access and availability caused by imported goods flooding the market. This approach serves as a disruptor, catalyst, intermediate, mediator, regulator, and buffer zone all at the same time. Al Mawsam’s business model fills the gap between informal initiatives and big wholesalers, providing a stepping stone for smallholders to reach higher incomes and volumes and enter bigger markets. This approach to development enhances food security by increasing accessibility, availability, and utility of artisan high-quality products and decreasing import dependency. By situating itself between merchants and producers, Al Mawsam acts as a mediator for those in dire need of each other to sustain and/or compete, while also negotiating on behalf of weak producers/farmers and buying risk to act as a buffer zone.
How did Al Mawsam come up with its innovative business model?
Al Mawsam desired to address the country’s socio-economic and developmental inefficiencies by providing a solution for rural small-scale producers struggling to access markets. These producers face limitations in post-production components such as resources, time, or know-how. Al Mawsam acts as a ‘Gateway’ mechanism, providing a relevant bouquet of services as a buffering intermediate and mediator. Its semi-FMCG approach fills the gap between informal initiatives and big wholesalers, providing a stepping stone for smallholders to reach higher incomes and enter bigger markets. Al Mawsam expects to enhance local food production-consumption by increasing accessibility, availability, and utility of artisan high-quality products and decreasing dependency on imports. Al Mawsam’s customers belong to various sectors, and all products are locally produced, vetted, and approved for quality.
What made you think of starting the innovation?
The scientific research on the Lebanese local food system inspired the founders of Al Mawsam to start their innovation. They found the connection between rural smallholders and institutions offering market access to be weak and fragmented, requiring an infrastructural mechanism to provide homogeneity among multiple stakeholders.
On the economic level, farmers’ markets, specialized shops, direct sales, and online sales were all found to have significant variabilities and did not optimize producers’ incomes. However, farmers’ markets were the highest-selling medium for rural smallholders. Online sales showed an increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the social level, only a limited portion of producers engaged in Producers’ Organizations to help enhance their situation. On the political level, negotiations with Points of Sales were not advantageous to producers.
The study also revealed practical challenges such as conventional market prices, absence of a standardized pricing mechanism, difficulty in satisfying big last-minute orders, significant shortage of proper logistics, transportation, and distribution infrastructure, lack of a quality control mechanism, and an alarming failure in the equity of distribution in a sector that is heavily subsidized.
Impact of the innovation
Al Mawsam’s innovation is important because it addresses the weak and fragmented connection between rural small-scale producers and conventional institutions offering market access, which is a common problem in the Lebanese and Mediterranean markets. It provides a sustainable solution to market access for rural smallholders by distributing their products to different types of Points of Sales, filling the void in the post-production aspect of the producers’ value chains, and providing growth in their income. The impact of Al Mawsam’s solution is not only limited to the producers themselves but also extends to the general community by increasing accessibility and availability of high-quality artisanal products, enhancing food security, and decreasing the dependency on imports. Additionally, the model contributes to the development of the local economy and supports rural development by providing a stepping stone for smallholders to reach higher incomes, volumes, and eligibility to enter bigger markets.