CASSAVA Smartech Zimbabwe is employing digital technology to enable farmers to boost agricultural production and scale their operations across the country.
This year the southern African nation is expecting a bumper harvest of up to 2.8 million tonnes of maize, thanks to a good rainfall season. The anticipated harvest will see the country saving close to US$200 million in maize imports.
Mr Givemore Jojo, Cassava Smartech’s Chief Commercial Officer, said the latest farming season shows that Zimbabwe has what it takes to feed the whole of Africa, adding that with the right agricultural technology, that could happen much sooner.
For the past few years, the listed financial technology group has been assisting farmers – through EcoFarmer – to gain access to markets, to benefit from customised information with knowledge on best farming practices and, more recently, to access farming equipment.
“Our technology-driven approach to agriculture aims to increase productivity within the agriculture value chain, achieve food security and improve the quality of lives among Zimbabweans,”
Mr Jojo said.
EcoFarmer has evolved from a weather-indexed insurance service provider, to a more robust agritech business, offering a variety of services targeted at farmers and other critical stakeholders in the entire agriculture industry.
This evolution was enabled by the development of integrated, end-to-end tech-driven solutions, aimed at enhancing access to a wide variety of services in agriculture.
Since then, more than 1.4 million farmers have registered on the EcoFarmer platform. Through the platform EcoFarmer has taken the lead in raising knowledge levels among farmers by broadcasting millions of targeted messages to farmers, equipping them with farming tips and news. Close to 2 million additional messages have been sent to farmers, through partnership programmes with farming organisations such as the Farmers Union, among others.
Mr Jojo said farmers and other stakeholders are conveniently able to access an array of services directly, via their phones from the comfort of their homes and farms.
“The messages have closed a critical knowledge gap that constitutes a major hinderance to boosting yields and scaling agricultural production. “Innovation in digital agritech is also helping farmers increase their yields and incomes by adopting locally suited seeds and fertilisers, protecting crops from diseases and pests – such as the armyworm or locusts – adapting to climate change, selling at the best possible price and having access to markets and to financial services. “All of these applications can expand farmers’ opportunities, while at the same time reducing their risk,”
said Mr Jojo.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), agricultural activities provide employment and income for close to 70% of Zimbabwe’s population and contributes nearly 20% of Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product.
As the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, the performance of agriculture is a key determinant of the resilience of livelihoods and of poverty levels.
To address gaps in service delivery in the agriculture value chain, especially to the majority of small scale and small holder farmers – who do not have access to adequate equipment and information, EcoFarmer introduced Vaya Digital Farmer, which offer utility services such Vaya Tractor, information services, logistics, warehousing, cold chain storage and facilities, combine harvesting and soil testing, among others.
To date, the 2 600 tractors that on the platform have tilled over 40 000 hectares of land for over 5 000 registered farmers.
“We understand our farmers very well and this is one of the major reasons we introduced an integrated mobile platform that offers farmers convenience and access to a wide array of products, including financial and credit services,”
said Mr Jojo.