Agriculture remains Uganda’s top employer, with more than 60 percent of the population involved in agricultural activities. Despite this statistic, the industry is largely underfunded, many farm inputs are counterfeited and there is little support for harvest handling and agro marketing.
By and large, Ugandan farmers are on their own, living at the mercy of middlemen that determine market prices for both farm inputs and produce.
It is these challenges that attract non-government players to chip in with innovative ways of empowering rural farmers. One such player is EzyAgric; an AgriTech and Financial Technology company that has digitized agricultural value chains to provide better production, marketing and financial services to farmers.
“Our mission is to provide end-to-end solutions to farmers so that they have a system that offers digital solutions for planning, extension services, access to affordable credit, and linkages to markets,” says Mercy Angela Nantongo, the EzyAgric Product Manager.
Established in 2015, EzyAgric also offers farmers with periodic weather updates, veterinary information, extension services and connects them to financial institutions for cheap credit.
HOW IT WORKS
A farmer with a smartphone needs to download the EzyAgric mobile application, sign-in and get a code that they use to access the EzyAgric system for free. Someone without a smartphone can either visit the EzyAgric website or use a USSD code and put in a crop of their choice to get periodic updates.
“When you use either of those channels to access EzyAgric, you can freely access information about agricultural inputs and services. We tell you about vaccines, pesticides, and herbicides. You can request vet visits, soil testing information or market linkages,” she says.
As part of value addition, the platform also provides farm management skills where farmers are given virtual record books to track their income and expenditure. With extension services, farmers receive agronomical information on all crops and animals and it guides them step by step over the season.
“When harvest time comes, we have the agricultural market where the farmer is asked to take a photo of their produce, put price and quantity. We then forward to our produce buyers who contact the farmer and they transact,” Nantongo says.
Since 2015, Nantongo notes, EzyAgric has impacted roughly 300,000 farmers and facilitates transactions worth millions of dollars per season. According to Nantongo, of the 10,000 monthly active users of EzyAgric platform, over 80 percent are women, which has greatly contributed to promotion of women financial inclusion.
To bring services closer to the under-served, Nantongo says they have even initiated an agent-based system where in every village or sub-county, people who don’t have access to a smartphone can get an agent who can register more than 100 farmers to access agricultural information.
The agent manages the group, can place orders for inputs, manage record books and receive market information.
“We also partner with Airtel where you dial a short code and chose the crop of your choice and on a weekly basis get information from us on how to take care of the crop. And when we have buyers for that crop, we send you a message. This specific product has attracted more than 30,000 subscribers from all over Uganda using the product in all languages,” Nantongo says.
FinTech in Uganda
Nantongo notes there is still a big challenge in uptake of digital solutions by most farmers and people at the bottom of the pyramid, with the majority reluctant to trust FinTechs because of lack of physical interactions and the perceived dangers of using of digital money.
EzyAgric is the 30th participant in this year’s 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative. Organised by HiPipo with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that initiative seeks to shine a light on emerging Financial Technology companies that are transforming lives through advancing of financial inclusion to the underserved communities.
HiPipo CEO, Innocent Kawooya paid tribute to EzyAgric as being one of Uganda’s FinTechs with maximum impact.
“Majority of Uganda’s population is somehow involved in agriculture. We are glad that EzyAgric is helping create a value chain between the farmer and the market which will go a long way in creating an agrarian ecosystem. Inputs and markets are always a huge challenge for farmers. It is very encouraging that organizations like EzyAgric have come in to address this and more,” he said.
The #40Days40FinTechs initiative is run under HiPipo’s Include Everyone program in partnership with Crosslake Technologies, ModusBox and Mojaloop Foundation, and is generously sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
It encompasses other initiatives such as FinTech Landscape Exhibition, Women in FinTech Hackathon, Summit & Incubator, and the Digital and Financial Inclusion Summit and Digital Impact Awards Africa.
The initiative offers participants useful tools and an introduction to the industry’s emerging technologies, such as Mojaloop Open Source Software, and guidance from Level One Project foundational material. The skills gained from this initiative cover Level One Project Principles, Instant and Inclusive Payment Systems (IIPS), Inclusive Finance and FinTech in general.