Smallholder farmers in Nigerian and other African countries are relying on digital applications to open new vistas of opportunities for them amid restrictions imposed on them due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
One such application is the recently released cassava mechanization services application referred to as “Agridrive App” that allows farmers to request for various mechanisation services from their farms.
The App, which is accessible on mobile phones in both online and offline modes has special features that farmers and mechanization equipment operators require ranging from tractor mechanisation service booking application, tractor tracking, equipment inventory, extension services, weather reports, Call Centre Service (for the market, produce price, transportation, storage and farmer event information), Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and artificial intelligence (including predictive analysis regarding future mechanization market opportunities). The App is GPS enabled and allows farmers to choose their farm locations.
When a farmer needs a service, the farmer simply fills the required details including size of the farm and the preferred date for the service. The request is then automatically entered into the system and sent to the system administrator with a copy to the farmer.
The application is also targeted at encouraging youth farmers, majority of whom have abandoned farming due to various reasons, by easily availing them with some of the technological solutions they seek.
Agridrive Ltd, the owner of the App, is a subsidiary of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) that offers cassava mechanization services across the crop value chain including ploughing, harrowing, planting, herbicide application, weeding, harvesting, and logistics operations for marketing.
George Marechera, Managing Director, Agridrive Ltd, said the App is a good example of how access to digital technology can offer significant advantages to smallholder farmers even during times of need such as this COVID-19 period.
The App is effective in ensuring business continuity while also reducing contact between Agridrive staff and farmers which reduces the risks associated with the spread of COVID 19 by promoting social distancing. This is because the App enables farmers to book and pay for mechanisation services without the need for personal contact with the mechanization equipment service provider. This also ensures the continued provision of much needed food in Nigeria thereby averting food insecurity related to Covid-19.
The App is leveraging digital technology to transform the delivery of mechanization services to enable farmers to overcome temporary COVID-19 related constraints and ensure better and more effective service delivery especially in remote areas in Nigeria
Farmers in Oyo and Ogun state are currently using the App to book services covering approximately 260 hectares for ploughing and harrowing, and a further 160 hectares for cassava planting.
“As a commercial farmer, the App helped me to have access to mechanization services from my home,” says Boluwaji Durogbola, a farmer based in Oyo State, Nigeria.
Alhaji Lukman, another farmer in Ogun State, also used the App to book for ploughing and harrowing services of 160 hectares in Ogun State and noted that the App also saved money and time that would have been spent looking for cassava mechanization services.
He added that “due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, there has been an increase in the loss of income and remittances which is seriously reducing most people’s ability to buy food. The App has helped me to overcome the disruption in domestic food supply chains and loss of income that is being experienced by many people as the Coronavirus Crisis unfolds”.
In their study entitled “Connected Agriculture: The role of mobile in driving efficiency and sustainability in the food and agriculture value chain”, Vodafone, Accenture and Oxfam stated that “Mobile communications can help to meet the challenge of feeding an estimated 9.2 billion people by 2050”.