In lower and middle-income countries, communication channels in the rural areas can’t be taken for granted. Smallholders often lack the technologies or skills needed to get timely and reliable information that can help them make appropriate decisions in their day-to-day lives. This is an obstacle that prevents a better planning process, but also one that prevents them from accessing markets and financial services like credit and insurance. With little information from the fields, these farmers are not considered by potential clients and are unattractive to potential investors. Low-cost initiatives are drastically changing this.
Working to solve the communication difficulties frequently seen in the rural areas, a group of international institutions has launched eGranary, an innovative app integrating several types of data and services for smallholders, and also for those who may be interested in doing business with them. Despite the natural distance between rural suppliers and urban buyers and financiers, this digital platform has strengthened virtual connections that point to a range of mutual benefits.
eGranary facilitates product aggregation, provides timely weather and extension advice, digitizes and delivers different loan products to farmers and helps to closely monitor agricultural campaigns. It seeks to make agricultural data available on time for decision-making for both farmers and investors, and to influence policy. Its objective is also to make farmers more bankable by de-risking their operating environment and building their capacities.
The initiative has been promoted by the East Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Mobile Decisioning Holdings Ltd (a FinTech company). So far, about 90,000 smallholder farmers have registered onto the platform in Kenya and Uganda.
EAFF has signed a supply contract and subcontracted its members, providing a floor price linked to the cost of production. Farmers have an incentive to get into the programme, which provides a predictable market and predictable prices. They receive certified inputs and advice on when to plant, and benefit from weather and a multi-peril crop insurance programme that is bundled with the in-kind loan of inputs, to be repaid in instalments.
Throughout the farming campaign, EAFF monitors the crops and provides drying services and a place to store the harvested crops. A post-harvest loan is also available for farmers, and after a final evaluation by the off-taker, farmers are paid via mobile money.
Now the idea is to bring more partners and funds to expand the initiative and reach a broader number of participant farmers, also extending it to Rwanda and Tanzania. The initiative hopes to provide farmers with continuous training on record keeping at individual and group levels, on topics that include good post-harvest practices.