Most farmers in Africa own small parcels of land that make it uneconomical to invest in mechanization. In instances where they would like to mechanize, their incomes are too low to afford it.
Consequently, most farming is back-breaking with meagre returns due to sub-optimal productivity and high levels of post-harvest losses. Over the years, this has resulted in an ageing farming population as young people shun agriculture.
This trend, however, is gradually changing. Established concepts in other sectors of society and economy have been borrowed and customized to ease farmers’ access to mechanization especially in rural and remote areas. One such concept that was at the center of discussions at this year’s ICT4Ag summit is the ‘Uber for Tractors’ model. Trials of this approach in Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana have provided lessons that can inform its scaling up across the continent.
Most rural areas are hardly serviced by tractors. A majority of farmers are unable to reach out to the tractor services or operators as the few existing mechanization centres cannot easily connect to farmers. Tractor owners, on the other hand, are unable to monitor operations and continually incur losses.
Some Working Examples
In Ghana, Trotro Tractor Limited (TTL) has developed a powerful platform that connects farmers and tractor operators while allowing tractor owners to monitor movement and work progress of their equipment.
On the opposite side of the continent, Tinga, East Africa’s largest network of tractors and equipment is enabling organized groups of farmers to jointly access farm equipment such as tractors, ploughs, planters, combine harvesters, sprayers among others through a rental platform for a predetermined time and fee. Farmers access the equipment through an SMS and other mobile based applications.
Hello Tractor which has presence in Nigeria and Kenya uses the countries’ well-developed ICT infrastructure to equip farmers and investors with the technology for smarter, better maintained, and more profitable tractors. Farmer have easy and quick access to mechanization while the owners receive maintenance alerts and scheduled on-site repair with trained technicians within the network.
Hello Tractor has also developed low-cost smart tractors that are small, maneuverable and versatile hence ideal for small plots of land.
In Tanzania, Tringo, a Mahindra & Mahindra venture is using a model borrowed from India to enable farmers to order tractor services by phone or through a mobile app. Since April this year, 2815 farmers and 3 tractor owners have been registered on the platform.