More than 50 per cent Africa’s land is arable with an investment potential running into billions of dollars.
In Sub Saharan Africa agriculture accounts for 52% of total employment, agriculture is the main economic activity and source of livelihoods for the continent. Presently, it contributes about 32% of the region’s GDP.
Even so, agriculture and food production on the continent lie solely smallholders farmers practising subsistence farming as they are responsible for close to 90% of the food produced on the continent.
In Uganda for instance, 80% of the country’s land is arable but only 20% of this land is being utilized.
Before the advent of the COVID 19 pandemic, indications reveal that Uganda was servicing a staggering wage bill in the region of 30-40million US $ annually in the name of food imports.
However, if Uganda together with other African countries is to harness from the world’s number one most youthful population, then it can invest in mechanization and digitization of the agribusiness on the continent.
One platform that appears to have leveraged this unique opportunity presented by Africa’s vast arable landscape is Ugandan based agritech startup, Farm Kiosk.
The startup has already engaged some groups of young people about the possibilities in agribusiness and is also currently working with 42 women groups, 20 youth groups comprising of 1530 farmers.
Farm kiosk is also working with 60 micro agroprocessors spreading around 7 districts of Mityana, Mubende, Kassanda, Masaka, Luweero, Mpigi and Mayuge in Uganda.
Techbuild.africa team caught up with Bwanika Charles, CEO/Founder, Farm Kiosk, who took us through how the startup is linking landless people with land owners at the bottom of the agribusiness pyramid to foster agribusiness in Uganda and beyond.
How Farm kiosk started?
Charles explained that it was his teenage-hood passion for agriculture that drove him to venture into cereal crops growing mainly maize on a rented piece of land in his home district of Masaka back in 2014 were he harvested 2 tonnes of maize only to fail out on getting the right market given the fact that maize prices had drastically fluctuated and he ended up selling off his harvest at a cheap.
This disappointment led him to do thorough research on Post – Harvest Loss control and Value Addition of cereal crops so that he can provide a solution to masses who were facing similar disappointments.
During that process of doing this research and consultations, Charles submitted a paper to Food and Agricultural Organization – FAO and was invited in Rome in Oct 2016 during the International Conference on Agricultural Statistics – ICAS VII conference to present this paper on Post Harvest Loss Control.
According to him, the experience and the feedback he got led him to do more thorough ground research and after the whole process, Farm Kiosk was birthed in August 2018, got incorporated in March 2019 while the mobile App was launched in October 2019.
Why Farm Kiosk?
“Farm kiosk is an inclusiveness oriented platform with special focus on impacting young people and women in the working age bracket of 18 – 40, but also it is crucial that both women and men have access to, use and control of ICTs as these can play a critical role in overcoming the daily hurdles that they encounter as farmers, entrepreneurs and agents of development for their communities.”
According to the founder, women are the backbone of Uganda’s agricultural sector, making up 75 % of the labour force in the country’s agriculture sector, however, only seven per cent of women own land according to customary law.
“In all this, it’s the women who plough, plant, weed and harvest. It should be noted that in rural areas of Uganda about 24% of the population live below the national poverty line (UBOS 2016).”
“Because more women are already into the agriculture sector, Farm Kiosk is intentionally and strategically looking at working with the available facts and statistics to empower and improve the livelihoods of the unemployed youth and the underemployed women while addressing the triple divide gap.”
Charles noted that, the world is divided along digital, rural and gender line, therefore it has the effect of relegating rural women to the most marginalized position when it comes to access to, and use of ICTs.
“The World Bank’s Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook underscores the potential for ICTs, when used in a gender sensitive way, to help bridge these divides and advance the processes of social inclusion, with tangible results, including narrowing of the economic and social divide between women and men.”
Challenges Farm Kiosk is addressing
With various challenges facing the African continent, Farm Kiosk is set out to solve the following:
Lack of digital skills to market online
Agricultural land inaccessibility
Lack of markets and marketing information
Low and poor quality production of farm produce
Low levels of financial literacy
Reduce pre-and post-harvest losses
“It´s at this point that Farm Kiosk with its youthful achievement-oriented well-balanced team is tapping into this opportunity of the increasing mobile and Internet connectivity in Uganda and the whole East African region to avail our platforms to link landless young people joining agribusiness with landowners at the bottom of the agribusiness pyramid”
The use of ICTs in Africa mobile phones and the Internet specifically has consistently advanced over the last decade.
The number of people connected to the Internet via mobile devices is increasing rapidly. Africa and Ugandan farmers, especially the youth, have not been left out of this ICT explosion.
Farm Kiosk is rhyming on these facts with its Mobile App which is an open platform which has interactive user-friendly features which allow it to profile B2B and B2C customers farmers being the base so that we support in extending agribusiness services.
What Farm Kiosk is offering
Charles noted the following benefits the agritech startup offers it users:
Access to a large pool of value chain players for agro products and services in Uganda and in the East African region.
Access to structured farmer groups training in financial literacy, Agribusiness Project Selection, Planning and Management Training
Linkages between young people interested in agribusiness but don’t own land with landowners leasing out their land purposely for agribusiness in any part of the country.
Access to free market information and knowledge material such as routine commodity prices, farming guides and other related content.
In addition, the founder noted that the startup is currently running 5 year Company Strategic Plan 2020/2025.
According to him, the plan was recently revised to absorb the shocks brought about by COVID 19 pandemic.
“Principally we aim at expanding our services to all the 10 agricultural zones of Uganda, facilitate the purchase of our delivery tracks, facilitate the establishing our call centre and our storage facility which work will enhance on the creation jobs in the sector directly to young people and women also working towards revolutionizing the farm produce distribution system in Uganda and across East Africa but most importantly it will support us in embracing the 8 SDGs: – 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9,12 and 13 that our company work is contributing to”
Farm Kiosk mobile app enables the support of farmers in tracking their activities periodically. The mobile app allows the startup to identify the type of produce specific farmers in a specific location are to deal in, in a specific season and their anticipated harvest period
The app also has another feature which helps us to profile landowners who are leasing out their land purposely for agribusiness in any part of the country.
Featured Image: Bwanika Charles, CEO/Founder, Farm Kiosk
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