AGRA engages the private sector and finds ways to reduce the risks that might deter businesses from serving farmers. We work with the private, public, and social sectors and across geographies to match the right partners with the right opportunities.
One of AGRA’s objectives has always been to help bridge the gap between government and the private sector to connect smallholder farmers to better opportunities. To achieve our objectives, we collaborate with multiple organizations, including ministries, banks and other entities with an interest in the promotion of strong agricultural systems. AGRA therefore decided to devote specific resources and efforts to the formation of strategic partnerships with key institutions to support its work. AGRA’s Partnerships Unit currently manages 30 strategic partners and in 2021 identified and engaged with a number of important new partners who can further AGRA’s work. New Letters of Intent were signed with Aceli, Mercy Corps, Sterling Bank, AFAP, Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism (AFFM), while new partnership discussions are ongoing with WBCSD, Croplife, OCP, the International Fertilizer Association, the International Seed Federation, WACOT, ECOM and Wilmar. AGRA has also continued to strengthen its collaboration and partnership with regional partners including the African Union Commission (AUC). As 2021 was the final year of AGRA’s latest 5 year strategy, there was naturally a focus on ensuring that as many as possible of its partnership initiatives were successfully completed.
AGRA’s digital strategy has been progressively rolled out following its launch at the AGRF in 2019. The underlying objective of digital strategy is to make it easier for farmers to access inputs and other farming technologies. Through this strategy, AGRA aims to promote digitization as an enabler to connect agriculture ecosystems, as well as the sustainable integration of governments, markets and villages operating in relevant strategic value chains.
Digitalization of Village Based Activities in last mile delivery of services and information to farmers through Partnership with CropIn
In May 2021, AGRA entered into a new partnership with CropIn, an AI led agritech organization. Through this partnership, AGRA intends to digitalize 10,626 VBAs in 6 countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique and Tanzania) in last mile delivery of services and information to more than 2.6 million farmers through the Cropin Smart-Farm Plus application. An additional objective of the partnership is to enhance the efficiency of VBAs in last mile delivery of inputs and services and enhance linkages with other service providers (expanded business opportunities and more services available to farmers). The platform will generate farmer scores based on the historical performance of their plots and other socio-economic factors, enabling CropIn and AGRA to make appropriate adjustments in their support. Additionally, the program aims to enhance the capacity of VBAs by improving the four main pillars of knowledge dissemination, input delivery, access to finance and integration/access to 3rd party service providers, including insurance and access to the market. Training and activation is expected to take place in 2022.
Reaching the last mile through technology through partnership with Microsoft
The ratio of agricultural extension officers and agents to farmers currently stands at 1:3,000, which is far too low. It underlines the challenge of access to information, which has affected the adoption of new agricultural technologies such as weather forecasting and certification of seed varieties and fertilizers that. Lack of these technologies, which ensure food security and allow efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly agricultural practices, has resulted in low crop productivity.
To meet this challenge, AGRA has partnered with Microsoft to develop a digital tool called AgriBot that can be used by VBAs and farmers to access information through their mobile phones on good agronomic practices on key value chains and other production enhancing resources, such as weather forecasting. Over 800 VBAs have already registered on the platform, who have in turn registered 49,491 farmers.
The AgriBot has not only enabled VBAs in the Embu and Kiambu counties of Kenya to access localized extension content for the maize value chain, but the content has now also been expanded to include information on chicken and vegetable production and weather alerts. Some of the early successes of the partnership include VBAs becoming able to adopt digital platforms and register their farmers following on-boarding training and induction; conducting training sessions to integrate digital tools for existing projects supporting VBAs, rather than operating on a stand-alone basis; and making it easier for other partners to crowdsource. The local government verified all the content, because high quality and up to date content will lead to greater usage and a more dynamic market Finally, the Bot can also be deployed as a more cost and time efficient method of collecting data, as compared to in-person surveys.