One of our predictions for this year is that there would be a lot of new technology around the agricultural sector. Agriculture is the backbone of African society. Currently, Africa is a net importer of food, leaving it vulnerable to international market prices and also making it difficult for farmers to compete against products that have often been subsidised. Crops like rice in many parts of the continent can not compete against American rice, even though it is far more nutritious.
Governments have a role to play in giving power back to the African farmer, but the likelihood is that this will be a slow process. So, building up the agric sector is a job for tech and innovation. Already, last year there were a number of technologies that are being aimed at small holder farmers to increase their capacity and capability. We wrote of the Tryctor, farm crowdfunding, #Cowfunding, Livestock insurance, mobile tech for agriculture and many many more over last year. And the trend is not about to stop now!
In a press release today (18/01/17) Mastercard announced that they have launched 2KUZE, a mobile market place specifically for farmers. 2KUZE, which is a Swahili word meaning “Let’s grow together”, was developed in the [snappily named] Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion in Nairobi, which was set up to develop financial tools and was given a $11 million grant from the Gates Foundation.
The market place enables farmers to sell their produce to buyers and receive payments for their produce, all using their feature phones. When a buyer makes an order, an SMS is sent out to all the farmers how have that product. The farmers can then respond with the amount they of produce they can contribute to the order. An agent will then go, confirm the amount and the price and collect and deliver the produce. There are a number of other similar systems out there, which are also enabling farmers better access to market prices and also saving money on logistics and not having to take the lowest offer, but as far as we have seen none that enable farmers to aggregate their product together to satisfy one order.
Using this service means that farmers can receive market price for their produce, and not have to worry about being fleeced by middlemen, who often negotiate themselves a big profit. With storage often an issue that demotivates farmers from increasing their yields and maximising their efficiency, this gives certainty of a buyer and should encourage farmers to meet their potential.
2KUZE is currently used by 2000 small hold farmers in Kenya, but the pilot project hopes to reach 300,000, globally. 2KUZE has the idea and the backing to be another innovation to become a global sensation after being developed in Kenya.
With increased yields and greater income, it enables more farmers to develop their own farms and turn them into flourishing businesses. Companies like Ojay Greene Agri-business are waiting to take advantage of increased yields and increased quality.Their mobile app is called Ustawihub – a name inspired by a line in the Kenyan National Anthem that says “Plenty be found within our boarders” Translated into Swahili – “Raha tupate na Ustawi”
Whether it is in cropping, or animal husbandry, herding or aquaculture, Ustawihub enables stepwise monitoring of the production and growth cycle. Through the platform smallholder farmers, fishermen or herders are able to get real time support for queries they may have. They are concerned about rapid urbanisation and the need for potentially less farmers to feed more mouths.
Using climate smart agriculture and also helping farmers increase their vegetable and fruit yields, Ojay Greene hopes to meet the rising urban demand for agricultural produce. They claim to be able to supply up to 50,000 consumers weekly. They also carry out stringent checks on quality, to offer their customers the best quality produce. This is important at both ends of the chain. Improved quality checks, means that farmers need to work to improve throughout the process, from the actual farming to storage to make sure they have quality products.
This will not be the last post on agriculture in Africa this year. Tech and innovations are popping up across the continent for all facets of agriculture. Yields, quality, sales, marketing and assistance and advice are all being thought over and offered solutions. Big companies like Mastercard and Syngenta are beginning to see the benefits of investing in African agriculture. There are swathes of fertile land and an ever growing youth population to farm them. Africa should, and probably will, be the bread basket of the world.
If you know of an agricultural innovation or any other African innovation, please let us know we would love to feature it. If you would like to be a guest blogger, or have a comment please get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or email, and please also share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.