By Our writer.
Smallholder farmers have for long been exploited and cheated at various stages of the agricultural production; be it buying inputs, where they have been sold counterfeits, or selling their produce, where they have been exploited by middlemen who offer them very low prices.
This has played a great deal in keeping them in abject poverty.
Observing this with great pain, a group of four passionate software and computer engineers, set out to salvage the farmer.
Leveraging technology, the group developed the EzyAgric mobile and web Application, to provide a platform for farmers across the country to access genuine agricultural inputs, markets, and information so as to improve their harvest and raise their living standards.
Through the App, the platform provides a one stop centre for everything a farmer needs, right from garden mapping and planning, buying inputs to market access.
According to Esther Karwera, the EzyAgric co-founder and Head of Business Development and Marketing, the platform is built to address gaps around soil quality/testing, quality seeds availability, right fertilizer availability, farming tools, weeding methodologies, harvesting, post harvesting handling and linkage to profitable markets.
The platform, according to Karwera, helps farmers connect to suppliers, produce market, buyers and financial institutions, among others.
Farmers also access extension and advisory services through the platform. These may include advise on soil testing to enable a farmer apply the right type of fertilizers, do garden mapping for estimation of input quantities and expected yields among others.
EzyAgric also links farmers with buyers at the most competitive price on the market.
Once one sells their produce through EzyAgric, they can also receive their payment through mobile money. Karwera says they are in the process of integrating with banks so that those who prefer receiving their money on their bank accounts do so.
“The App presents a less- laborious approach to agriculture. Previously we thought that for one to do agriculture, they should have a hoe, have a garden and move to access genuine inputs or wait for the market. EzyAgric is re-writing the story of how agriculture is done in Uganda and beyond,” Karwera says.
She adds: “With this App, once a farmer’s crops are infested by a certain pest, all the farmer needs to do is to take a picture of the pests in their gardens and sending it to the App and they will be given feedback on the possible pesticides to apply and genuine suppliers.”
She says that 250,000 farmers have accessed services through the EzyAgric platform, with over 30,000 of them being financially active – they are buying agricultural inputs and selling their produce on the App. Additionally, 40% of the 250,000 farmers are women.
Karwera also notes that the AgriTech is developing EzyCredit; which using the farmer’s data, will enable them get affordable credit from EzyAgric or a partner financial institution.
To use the platform, one needs to download and install the EzyAgric Farmer App from Play Store on their smartphone and then register for an account using their mobile phone number.
Karwera, however, says that even farmers without smartphones can access the EzyAgric App through a network of village agents, who visit them regularly.
She, however, says that it would have been better and seamless if every farmer could own their own smartphone and interacts on the platform on their own.
She also alludes to the connectivity challenge, saying that there is need for infrastructure improvement to ensure the right digitization of the value chain to improve and lower production costs.
EzyAgric is among the firms participating in the ongoing 40-Days 40-FinTech initiative, organized by HiPipo in partnership with Crosslake Technologies, ModusBox and Mojaloop Foundation, and sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
The HiPipo Chief Executive Officer Innocent Kawooya says the initiative is boosting the African FinTech ecosystem by enabling innovators enjoy sustainable visibility, and profitability which in turn helps them design and deploy affordable and inclusive financial services for the poor.
He explains that FinTechs have played a great role in financial inclusion across Africa, as the various products and services innovated by players are impacting millions of people at the last mile.