How a Mobile App Prepares Smallholder Farmers for a Successful Harvest

NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / December 1, 2022 / That Transforming Tech The series highlights Cisco’s nonprofit grantees who use technology to help transform the lives of individuals and communities.

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According to Our World in Data, more than 84 percent of agricultural producers are smallholders; which means their farms are less than two acres. Despite producing a third of the world’s food, many of them suffer from poverty themselves and, paradoxically, often do not have enough food to support their families. The good news is that growth in agriculture could be two to four times more effective at raising incomes for the poorest than growth in other sectors.

With the bold goal of solving global poverty, One Acre Fund (OAF) has been working since 2006 to provide smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa with the resources they need to improve their crops, increase their income, use environmentally friendly farming methods apply and diversify crops to increase resilience to disasters. Among its services, supported by over 6,000 field representatives in nine countries, OAF offers flexible financing, where farmers can buy high-quality seeds and fertilizers on credit and pay back a dollar here or a dollar there when they get money; Delivery of inputs to places within walking distance of any farmer; Education; Insurance; and access to innovative products and technologies.

Originally, OAF offered an annual shipment of seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural products from central warehouses to farmers’ rural villages, just in time for the planting season. In 2019, they launched the Tupande program in Kenya, which includes a one-stop shop for high-quality agricultural products in the form of bright yellow shipping containers called dukas (Swahili for “shop”) that are set up in rural villages closer to farmers will . These Dukas are transformative as farmers can now access the supplies they need locally all year round. To date, OAF has opened 110 dukas across Kenya, aiming to have 220 by the end of the year. Their goal is to expand to 330 dukas by mid-2023, each scaling to around 1,500 Kenyan pawns; and eventually launch the program in other countries where they work.

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Tupande goes digital

With support from Cisco’s Global Impact Grant program, OAF developed the mobile application Tupande, which went live in Kenya in April 2022. The app allows farmers to browse OAF’s product catalogue, compare prices, view item photos and descriptions, see what’s in stock at their local duka and order – all from their mobile phone. “Digital penetration is much higher in Kenya than in many other neighboring countries,” said Claire McGuinness, senior analyst at OAF’s Strategy and Partnerships. “It’s a good area for us to test, learn and roll out [new technologies] for the peasants.”

Julius Tovesi, an entrepreneur who supports his family and the wider community in their farming ventures, said: “I first heard about the mobile app through an official from the Tupande Kakamega duka, who explained to me how to navigate it. I checked them out and compared the prices and products on offer to those in the duka and I was impressed and haven’t used it since!” Once an order has been placed through the app, farmers can either go to their local duka to order pick up their products or they can have them delivered directly to their home.

In addition to being convenient for farmers, the app greatly improves OAF’s operations by reducing the time field workers spend processing orders. With this time savings, they can partner with more farmers to provide training and other value-added services. “In the past, we’ve used leverage to think about how our field workers can serve more people,” Claire explained. “Because the more people a field representative can serve, the more efficient the program becomes and the more people you can reach. [The Tupande app] came as a logical next step for us to reach even more farmers. It gives farmers a lot more flexibility because while they can place an order with their field representative, they don’t have to wait for them to come by to place an order.”

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The Tupande app is also a way for OAF to better connect with a rising generation of young farmers who grew up with technology and prefer technology-driven solutions. As older farmers retire, OAF is focused on using technology to attract and retain this younger generation of farmers.

Prepare to scale to support a growing population

Although still an early-stage pilot, the Tupande mobile app could enable OAF to reach 50,000 to 100,000 entirely new Kenyan farming families over the next few years.

“The app is a great way to leverage the trust we’ve built over time and allow us to reach so many more people, so much more efficiently.” Claire continued, “There are 50 million smallholder families in Africa.

This is particularly important as it is estimated that the world population will increase by at least two billion people by 2050 and increasing smallholder yields will be a key factor in ensuring there is enough food for everyone. Cisco is proud to support organizations like One Acre Fund that use technology to help reduce poverty, increase food security and build thriving, resilient communities.

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SOURCE: Cisco Systems Inc.