Mobile technology can become a powerful tool to advance a farmer’s business and knowledge, like for instance this new app that will be introduced soon.
Africa’s small-scale farmers are in a process of transition and transformation as they move towards commercialisation. Subsistence farmers are part of the African landscape. Some are pushing ahead and growing their operations but many are struggling to take the step up.
Many new entrants, keen to learn, produce food and trade their produce, funding their start-up farms with a salary of a job that they’re still holding down. They put in extra time and make sacrifices to improve production and profitability, driven by a vision that puts them on a path to full-time farming.
This trend is particularly obvious in Zambia, a country in which the agricultural sector is growing at 12% per annum and currently contributing 16% to the GDP. Global players, looking to expand their markets and their production bases, are not unaware of the country’s agricultural potential.
For Zambian farmers the demand for agricultural produce is a major opportunity, but it is an opportunity that will not hang about waiting for producers to get organised.
And farming in Zambia is not without its challenges. One of these challenges is little to no access to extension services says Mwila Lando, a young Zambian entrepreneur who runs a renewable energy business. The farmers themselves are quick to admit that there is a knowledge shortfall and are keen to access information that will help them improve profitability and farm with greater excellence.
“Zambia has a population of 14.5 million, and a population growth rate of 3.2%; 70% of Zambians are farmers and many of them are women,” says Mwila. “Agriculture gives us major market opportunities and it’s a stable long-term investment, but farmers need access to information about crops, animal husbandry, weather patterns, soil types, fertiliser and seed prices and markets.”
The lack of information about markets and prices in the value chain exposes farmers to unscrupulous buyers and sellers of commodities, fertiliser and seed he explains.
“Our solution is to link farmers with buyers on an online trading platform and give clarity to agribusinesses while raising awareness in the sector.”
He has done this by designing a farmers’ app geared to the needs of the emerging farmers with the relevant functions and mobile software founded on a geographical information systems (GIS) base. The working title is Farmers Basket (not to be confused with an app with the same name already available online). Farmers register to access information and training pages are developed from the data they submit.
The app makes it possible for farmers to create their own networks with suppliers and even to discover new suppliers. “This system helps farmers to improve their business model and the management of daily operations,” he explains.
Corporate registration comes with a licence and the app is constructed to allow for mobile money accounts and wallets.
“The benefits of using the farmers’ app include the empowerment of women and the marginalised and the production of more and a more diverse array of produce. We can give farmers extension services, market information and a clear open trading platform for the value chain.”
Through the trading platform there is access to a market with actualised daily prices, he says. “And the farmer’s revenue improves as we grow his capacity to process commodities and get into the value chain.”
WORK IN PROGRESS
Mwila ran a pilot with 600 Farmers to see how the app worked and look at gaps that may not have been picked up in the development phase. Security has to be rock solid to be able to link farmers to the commercial banks, and security is the most expensive item on the project.
“We plan to roll out to full working version by the end of August this year,” says Mwila. The farmers’ app will be available on IOS, Android, Windows and Desktop.
- Contact Mwila Lando on firstname.lastname@example.org