It is obvious that farmers' productivity and profitability is a function of access to input, cost of input (if available), commercialization, technology adoption and access to market/market information. The availability of major input like cleared land or quality seed, coupled with a reduced cost will increase profit. On the other hands, the availability of ready market for farmers' produce will assure increased productivity, while the introduction of modern technology and mechanization will enhance commercialization. Unfortunately, an average farmer in the rural communities in Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries faces all or some of these problems without any form of a structured solution.
An average rural farmer in Nigeria, despite his/her relevance in food security in the country, lacks access to readily available cleared arable farmland and land preparation machinery like Tractors, even when they got some parcel of land to work on; they lack the educational requirement to be integrated into the conventional financial system for loan and agric-financing, they lack the required technical-know-how to introduce modern technology that will promote commercialization, where some of them struggle to produce in large quantity, they lack the necessary climate and market information required to make an informed decision. It is sad to know that while some have this information, they lack the ability to interpret the information in a language they understand. They mostly ended up working at no or little profit, which does not commensurate with the effort and resources invested; this among other reasons accounted for the increased level of rural poverty, food insecurity, social vices and poor level of rural development in the country.
Our e-FarmersHELPLINE solution is the first virtual multi-lingual Farmers' Support Centre in Nigeria (to the best of our knowledge) that specifically link smallholder knowledge-excluded farmers; whether skilled/unskilled, educated/uneducated or experienced/inexperienced to basic information that are relevant for their success, delivered to them promptly in their preferred Language through our trained/experience e-FarmersHELPERs (an agents assigned to the farmers on registration). With the e-FarmersHELPERs a farmer can quickly get access to an agent at no cost to discuss challenges on the farm and also get access to relevant market information before embarking on production.
The e-FarmersHELPLINE SOLUTION combines and adopt USSD, Internet, GPS, Drone and Artificial Intelligence to provide relevant alert to an e-FarmersHELPER that can promptly notify a farmer of likely climate, market, cost and financing information in his own mother-tongue language while he is making any decision on the farm. Our e-FarmersHELPLINE does not provide loan to farmers, but provide necessary information and ensure they are adequately prepared to access any form of fund available to a farmer in the city; through information dissemination, financial education and technical support.
With our e-FarmersHELPLINE SOLUTION, an average rural farmer irrespective of the availability of internet can gain access to the most proximate un-utilized arable and fertile farm land, tractor vendors, input providers, expert advice (as it relates to technical. financial, climate and market) and off-takers or other ready produce market with the best prices. The primary vision is to increase farmers productivity and profitability through technology and mechanization to ultimately improve living standard in rural communities and significantly alleviate hunger both in the cities and rural areas.
Our solution is feasible and sustainable considering the fact that we have presently captured over 20,000 farmers in Kwara State withing a period of 6 months in 2018; this database substantiate the fact that over 70% of the captured farmers are small holder and knowledge excluded. The project is profit-driven through a business that generate revenue from the following:
(i) FarmersHELPER Support Charges: although farmers will access basic support information freely, but they will be enjoined to pay a token per annum to access premium service on the platform,
(ii) FarmersHELPER CALLER-TUNE ADVERT CHARGES: Our business model is to populate the e-FarmersHELPLINE with pool of farmers and provide information for as low as FREE, but we will approach and charge commercial banks, agric-development banks, agric-input vendors and agro-allied companies for placing voice advert on our platform by leveraging on our traffic and robust database. Farmers will be prompted to hear these adverts in their selected language while waiting for an e-FarmersHELPER to attend to the call,
(iii) Brokerage-MARGIN: To some farmers who will prefer that we arrange off-take, or outright buy-off of their produce through a special eFARMEX module, here we will charge a brokerage margin on the buyer not the farmer. We hope to charge 2.5% of total off-take volume; as inclusion payable by the buyer.
(iv) Short Code SMS Charges: Although not significant, we will charge a token for the USSD communication between the farmers, vendors and stakeholders on our e-FarmersHELPLINE platform.
Our initiative is scalable considering the fact that we have develop a simplified technology that can be implemented with just 10% of the proposed total cost as pro-potype that can thus be scaled up gradually. In doing this, we have arranged a collaboration with an existing customer call center company to provide a shared facility arrangement where we just provide our hard-ware to work with their already installed software and we install our own programme to work as a pilot or pro-potype. Our proposed scalability milestone is to test-run on the shared facility for 6 months, ascertain profitability and feasibility before embarking on full-fleshed implementation.
We have developed unique innovations in the development, implementation and marketing of the solution; as we have the following innovations incorporated into the project:
(i) Developed strategically as a multi-lingual electronic Farmers' Call center with the ability to transfer calls, record and disseminate relevant informations while on hold or waiting for an e-FarmersHELPER (agent).
(ii) Strategic Inclusion; to ensure success, we have strategically included graduates of agricultural science in Polytechnics and Univeristy who will work as Industrial Trainees and Agric-Experts (thereby creating job for the teeming population of young graduates in the country and making the agricultural sector attractive to the youth). We will also include idle and under-utilized extension agents from the State and Federal Ministry of Agriculture as part-time e-FarmersHELPERs.
(iii) Automated Need Assessment and Need Matching Algorithms/Software: this innovation automatically keep pools of request from all the stakeholders and matches their needs to link the farmers to the most proximate and fastest solution point.
(iv) we have inventively identified relevant stakeholders like farmers, Agric-Input-Equipment-providers, Accredited FarmersHELPERS/Extension Officers, Agric-Business Consultants, Government, Financial Institutions, Telecommunication companies and Development Agencies (all of them are categorized as our target market).
Our expectation is that, in the first 2 years of e-FarmersHELPLINE; we would have:
(i) Register 1,500,000 Farmers in 15 States of Nigeria (rural-farmers alone),
(ii) create 20,000 Direct Job in rural communities,
(iii) increase food productivity by 60% and rural farmer profitability by 100% through technology adoption and
(iv) create a projected total sales revenue of USD500,000 (annually); an equivalent of NGN180,000,000 and minimum of 25% Net Margin as wealth for the e-FarmersHELPLINE Investors (that is about USD125,000 annually as net profit after all expenses).
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