Lagos – The role of smallholder farmers in the quest for self-sufficiency in food production in the country cannot be overemphasized because these set of farmers accounted for over 80 per cent of farmers’ population in Nigeria.
According to a survey, it has been estimated that about 38million of them are not captured within the -bankable populace thus they are forced to operate at that small-scale level across the country.
In order to improve their capacity and increase their efficiency, Farmcrowdy, a digital agriculture platform is providing a platform to assist smallholder farmers through connection to sponsors in order to produce more food for the country and then export to earn additional foreign exchange for the country.
Onyeka Akumah, the Co-Founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy in an interview with INDEPENDENT at the first year anniversary of the firm in Lagos stated that the organisation operates by rendering assistance to farmers in core areas of finance, provision of links to the right market and introduction to smart farming techniques for improved yields.
Emphasising on the need to reshape how farmers go about the trade, he stated that Farmcrowdy is achieving this through the deployment of its online platform to source funds from sponsors for the purpose of securing land, plant crops and meet the funding needs to boosting food production with small-scale farmers.
Providing explanations on the functionality of the platform, Akumah stated that it works by pairing farmers with sponsors to effectively manage the farming cycle with training in smart farming techniques, the supply of equipment and technical support.
He also announced the launch of its first App for Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices, stressing that the platform has introduced a new category of funding small-scale farming in Africa by allowing Nigerians to venture and sponsor agriculture.
He added that farm sponsors can expect to see returns after harvest of six and 25 per cent
between three and nine month period depending on what farm type they choose.
According to him, since the launch of the website 12 months ago, Farmcrowdy has recorded close to 1,000 unique farm sponsors, aggregated a combined 4,000 acres of farmland in Nigeria for farming purpose and grown over 150,000 organic chickens to date.
He said having worked with close to 2,000 small-scale farmers in Nigeria already, the vast majority of Farmcrowdy sponsors are based in Nigeria, while 10 per cent are located in the United States and the United Kingdom.
“With another 6,000 Farm Followers visiting their website every week, the launch of the Farmcrowdy mobile app will provide a more accessible platform for agriculture enthusiasts to experience, learn and appreciate agriculture practice first-hand.
launched the Farmcrowdy app to provide an accessible, real-time platform for people on the go, who do not want to miss out on empowering their own communities.
‘In the past month alone, we have witnessed over 500 farm units of poultry; 25,000 chicks sold out in a few hours to engage farmers who would have found it difficult accessing loans in the banks; so it’s super fast-paced. People are equally excited about creating impact in the lives of our farmers while earning a decent return.
“Nigeria is a mobile-first society and we have received feedback from our sponsors who said they wanted improved access to our farms. They spoke, we listened, and we have now built a platform that suits Nigerians’ preferred means of doing business as a mobile app”.
Assuring that farmcrowdy would continue to stay at the forefront of innovation in Agritech across Nigeria and scale its activities into more states in Nigeria, he added that the initiative would attract more farm followers and sponsors to engage the farmers.
Speaking further he said the organisation is currently operating in eight states across Nigeria where farm sponsors have the opportunity to choose or sponsor a variety of farm types including cassava, maize, rice, soya beans and poultry (broiler chickens for meat); with cycles lasting between three to nine months depending on the farm.
He said: “Farm sponsorships start from N96,000 [$270], and Farmcrowdy coordinates pre-arranged buyers to sell the farm harvest when the cycle is complete. The farm profit from the harvest is then split between the sponsors who receive 40 per cent of the harvest profits plus their original sponsorship, while the farmers receive returns of 40 per cent and Farmcrowdy gains 20 per cent of the profits.
“By effectively placing farms in the pockets of Nigerians globally, we are collectively impacting national food production and food security. This is our way of creating impact and return model for everyone sponsoring small-scale farmers with Farmcrowdy”.
On how to obtain the app, he directed that interested farmers can download it on the Google Playstore.
Akumah added; “This app provides a safe and reliable platform for agriculture enthusiasts to participate in this growing sector from a knowledge stand-point to making informed decisions about exploring opportunities in farming.
“So, we are looking forward to partnering with more Nigerians locally and globally as we continue to work towards building this community model for Nigerians to empower Nigerian farmers, produce Nigerian food and boost food production in the region while impacting positively on farmers’ lives and families.
Speaking further he said this kind of community model would be scaled into other regions as the platform keep learning and improving its processes through the deployment of technology.
One of the farm sponsors, Mrs. Elvis Okoro, who enlisted from the inception of the project, affirmed that it had been good news, saying that it is far better than saving with a bank.
“What I saw was good; I kept investing in other farms.
There are different farms and you have the option based on percentage on each farm and for me before this project, I had the interest of wanting to get into agriculture, of course, we know how big it is in Nigeria, but I couldn’t do all the going to the farm, getting the land, doing all the dirty work, but I found an opportunity like this and I am happy doing this.
“It’s been positive feedbacks for me and you can tell that he has done so much in a short period of time, he has achieved so much and carried us along as well even before the launch of the app, it was easy for you to track everything you needed to do because sometimes I would get a call and someone would ask if I wanted to see my chicks and all that. You don’t have to do the dirty work but they do carry you along which is good,” she said.
She added that she did not just invest in one farm, that she invested in a couple of them, poultry, cassava and the likes, stressing that there are different percentages on each farm.
Rasheed Olaoluwa, former Managing Director, Bank of Industry (BoI), commended farmcrowdy stating that initiative can be likened to bringing two parties together; each one lacking what the other one has.
According to him; “The farmer has the time to farm but he doesn’t have the funding. You and I have the money in our pockets but we don’t have the time to farm. By connecting us we can fund the farmer and then farmcrowdy will also provide modern farming practices so that the farmer that used to get two tonnes per hectare of maize now gets six to eight tonnes per hectare of maize because farmcrowdy is bringing improved varieties of seeds, better fertilizers, better timing of planting of the crop and the likes.”
He added that a farmer gets four times more return and therefore from that profit, there is a sharing formular of 40 percent to the farmer, 40 percent to the sponsor and farmcrowdy gets 20 per cent, noting that it is a business model that was pioneered from outside Nigeria but farmcrowdy is the first to implement it in Nigeria.
Speaking further he said what farmcrowdy has done was to bridge assess to finance, adding :“What farmcrowdy is doing in essence is also providing the funding but not at as a loan but in form of a partnership, a partnership where we actually work with the farmer almost on a day to day basis to make sure that the loan is not misapplied.
Olaoluwa said just within one year of operation, they have already impacted over 1000 farmers.