Rural farmers Hub:  Solving challenges through precision agriculture

Michael Dibie

Nearly half of Nigerians live in rural areas where the primary occupation is farming. However, most of the small farmers do not have the required resources and equipment to engage in massive farming to provide enough food for the teeming population.

According to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ernest Umakhihe, Nigeria is the leading producer of fresh yams in the world, yet it is unfortunate to note that despite the huge production, the country export less of the product.

“If we must have sustainable food security for our teeming population of over 200 million people and have enough to export to other countries, there is a need to critically examine the factors working against the quality production and export of our major commodities, of which yam is one of them,” he said.

Experts say that deliberate action must be taken to move production, processing and marketing of farm produce to the next level in line with international best practices.

In Nigeria, small farmers are producing less food than they did 35 years ago! This remains shocking, especially when one consider the fact that they have steadily expanded the size of their farms. Some of the reasons for this decline include over-cultivation of land without rotation and mixed cropping that may have led to severe soil damage.

The primary cause is a widespread use of some legacy and contemporary farming practices that are not backed by data and further compounded by farmer’s inadequate resilience to climate change. As countless other farmers across the country have struggled to make ends meet. These challenges affect about 500 million farmers across Africa, the same farmers who feed the continent.

“It was on this back-drop that Rural Farmers Hub was founded, to help accelerate the adoption of data-driven and climate-resilient farming practices by African farmers,” said Gabriel Eze, CEO., RuralFarmers Hub.

The Hub has been in existence since 2018, and came into being when they saw lot of farmers struggling to live, hence in other to see how they could help support farmers improve their livelihood, Rural Farmers Hub was born to help farmers make more from their farms by optimising their current operations with technology and relevant actionable insights.

The essence of the Hub is to help farmers improve their yields and increase income. The Hub started with just two people, and currently they are about 11 dedicated staff. The Farmers Hub encourages farmers by achieving higher levels of productivity through innovative information technology.

Co-founder of the Hub, Segun Adigun said they have supported about 25,000 farmers and have seen an increase yield of about 35% and income increase as well.

‘We have what we call propriety algorithm. We design the softwear that is able to process big data into very simple insights for the farmers to apply on their farms. These insights are given to the farmers via SMS and also in their local languages,” he said.

From available data, many young people don’t consider farming as a decent work in most African countries because it is considered to be dirty and most times very strenuous.

The Hub says it wants to change this with “Capture” a mobile app that enable anyone starts and manages a farm digitally from a mobile phone.

‘With the growing number of technologies in the world, to be able to scale and reach out to a large number of customers and target, you need a technology that is cost efficient and also scalable. The mobile app technology enables us to do that,” Adigun added.

According to Eze, Capture is a mobile app that enables anyone to start and manage a farm digitally from a mobile phone or a laptop. Farmers are said to get paid their 12-month salary in one month; so it is not uncommon for the majority of them to face unpredictable income, year after year.

“In Capture, we believe we’ve built one of the most functional and relevant app solutions for farmers in the market today to complement existing best farming practices and solutions for improving soil and crop quality at the farm level,” he said.

About 60-70% of farming in Nigeria or productivity in terms of food security in Nigeria comes from smallholders’ farmers which is about 60-70% of the farming population. However, most of the smallholder’s farmers in rural communities are illiterate.

The Hub reiterated that with the solution they have, they have been able to reach out to these farmers to see that yields is improved, use the right inputs like fertilizer and seeds and get market access to sell their produce, and through all these, able to support their livelihood.

According to the Hub, when a farmer starts farming with Capture, it becomes his/her digital guide for precisely monitoring and managing soil and crop status using remotely sensed data. It smartly combines soil, crop and climate data into powerful insights for farmers or organisations that support farmers, leading to improved the desirable outcomes.

Eze noted Rural Farmers Hub, has the best-in-class software design in precision farming, combining big data with best agronomic data. The Hub currently service farmers in Nigeria across 10 states and in Zimbabwe but the large number are in Nigeria located in the North Central, and the North west.

Beneficiaries

Some farmers in the North of Nigeria say the mobile app “Capture” has helped them in producing more and enable them scale and reach out to a large number of customers and targets.

“I register with Ruralfarmers hub and I got the opportunity to farm last year and this year, there is a way forward. I have been taught how to farm with the app and I am getting good harvest,” Amina Mohammed, a farmer said.

According to Field Coordinator, Ibrahim Abubakar, farmers are taught how to operate good farm that can yield good harvest and how to use the soil effectively because some soils are not good for farming with the use of technology looking at the climate change.

Challenges

Practically, there are three major challenges facing food systems in Nigeria as in some other African countries which  include:  legacy farming practices, climate change, and large small farm holdings. One or more combinations of these factors inhibits farmer prosperity and affects business model. However, the Capture app can help farmers increase their resilience to climate change and pivot from legacy farming practice.

Future projects

The Hub plans to roll out the Capture app to medium and largescale farms. This will help expand reach while strengthening market presence. Eze noted that in the past six  years, the focus has been on smallholder farmers who have less than 1 hectare, making up 43% of the market pool. Expanding focus to farmers with 1 hectare or more will strengthen food systems and rural economy.

Secondly, the Hub will be launching Young Entrepreneur in Agriculture In-Residence (YEAR), a massive job creation, job improvement, and job matching initiative for undergraduates and graduates of agriculture as well as for anyone interested in building a career in agriculture. This program will enable self-motivated individuals and agro-entrepreneurs to build their own transformative agritech solution or services.

The farmers Hub also plans to partner with OEMs in order to increase the purchase and adoption of computerized tractors for precision farming. And for people who already own farm equipment without onboard computers, they plan towards upgrading and making them compatible with accessories that make precision farming possible.

Ruralfarmers Hub says it’s not just business professionals, but an agricultural visionaries committed to reshaping the future of farming, hence it’s always open to new partnerships and impact investments in these directions.

Africa Change Stories platform is established to tell African stories which are empowering and are at variant to stereotypical views of wars, famine, diseases. At African Change Stories, we believe narrative and angle matters. So we responsibly tell stories ethically. The platform therefore pushes forward great and energizing stories which will propel its people to consciously strive to do more. You have a story? Info@africanchangestories.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top