Monday, 21 October 2013

Loosening The Bottlenecks for Commercial Smallholder Farming in Afrika by "Just Adding a Little Innovation..." HELLO EcoFarmer!



"Go where the need is greatest and the help is smallest... EcoFarmer will transform agriculture... We must use technology to address every day challenges of ordinary people... This is what I mean, when I say, 'just add a little innovation, to what you do best.' "- Mr Strive Masiyiwa, Executive Chairman and Founder of Econet Wireless Group and Board Member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

I am a strong Social Media follower of some of Afrika's most iconic leaders and transformers. But I must say as I read the words of Mr Masiyiwa on his Faceboook page recently, the spectre of highly risky smallholder characterized by low private investment is slowly coming to an end through ground breaking innovation, sustainable relationships and strategic partnerships. 

The Econet Wireless Zimbabwe website on the 26th of September revealed news of a "weather-indexed drought insurance service" developed by Econet Wireless. The product, which they are calling EcoFarmer allows farmers to "buy insurance for as little as eight cents per day, which is deducted from their prepaid phone account during the agricultural season. If the rain does not fall, resulting in a drought, the farmer will be given as much as $100 for every 10 kg seed pack planted." 

You can get more accurate information from the Econet Wireless Zimbabwe web page or follow Mr Strive Masiyiwa on Facebook or Twitter for more information. But here's a little lesson I would like to share from the Econet story:

There is great potential to grow businesses with the vast low-income majority, not through strengthening the bottlenecks, but rather eliminating them through partnering for greater collective impact... 

Cutting edge and transformational entrepreneurs, do not realize the vast rural majority as a source of cheap labor, but rather as hardworking and ready to commit producers and entrepreneurs with unique "barefoot" economic potential.

I am hopeful, that EcoFarmer will significantly contribute to making insurance and other financial products more broadly accessible to the rural farmers by risk-reduction and pioneering the elimination of more bottlenecks such as the distance, time and communication costs... and even language barriers and bottlenecks. 

Overall, thumbs up to EcoFarmer and we wish a successful roll-out and further scaling up that triggers sufficient public and private sector investment in a sustainable way for greater agricultural growth and prosperity to demystify commercial farming for the rural farmer... Yes, to Go Barefoot.

In light of this pursuit we should all share with companies like Econet Wireless of modernizing and commercializing smallholder farming in Afrika, there is a great need to capacitate and embolden the rural farmer to regain her confidence and level her reason and negotiating capacity to that of a variety of players she will meet in the dynamic market. 

The small but powerful voice of the rural woman farmer could be strengthened by stronger networks and greater collaboration of communities which ICT platforms can also facilitate. 

With the right partnerships, technologies and other institutional enablers, farmers will not be left victim to shrewd middlemen or opportunists. 

Again, I believe EcoFarmer has taken a pioneering step to making things simple on the insurance angle... And Oh! With EcoFarmer's more accurate rainfall data, some of the ailing research, extension and advisory services challenges are addressed as well. 

Well done EcoFarmer! And a call to every interested player and stakeholder to "..ADD A LITTLE INNOVATION..."

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