The eSwatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE), in partnership with network operator eSwatini Mobile and South African agri-fintech company eSusFarm Africa, will use the eSusFarm Africa platform to provide information and services for 10 000 farmers on smallholdings.
ESWADE Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project manager Ray Gama notes that a lack of information hobbles these farmers from growing into commercial farmers.
The platform tracks and provides advanced agricultural statistical data for smallholders and the agricultural value chain to increase agricultural productivity. It also provides credit access for smallholder farmers, as well as improves the overall efficiency of the agricultural value chain.
The eSusFarm Africa solution collects real-time food-production data from smallholder or subsistence producers and shares it with agricultural value chain partners.
The system provides markets for smallholder farmers through the formation of an eSusFarm virtual farm, which pools output from smallholder farmers and sells it to different economic agents, including retailers.
The platform will help to monitor the quality of produce and use the data and partnerships with financial institutions to provide preapproved credit for smallholder farmers, which will aid financial inclusion.
The project, which is the largest smallholder farmer digital transformation initiative in the Southern African Development Community, aims to revolutionise the way agricultural development agencies operate in Africa by making data a pillar of agriculture to meet the requirements of smallholder farmers.
eSwatini Mobile will provide smallholder farmers with free access to the eSusFarm Africa platform for a period of three months.
ESWADE aims to empower communities to improve their quality of life through projects in commercial agriculture and water provision. The agency has laid irrigation systems in the rural communities of eSwatini and has been tasked to improve agricultural productivity in smallholder farming areas.
The local smallholder farming sector in Africa faces several challenges, including lack of data, funding, value chain linkages and price-determination tools.
“With the eSusFarm Africa platform, smallholder farmers will be monitored and tracked using offline and online tools that will enable ESWADE to focus on analysis, intervening when farmers are failing and managing by exception instead of focusing on data mining and data cleaning.”
Consequently, this will move ESWADE employees from low- to high-value jobs. In addition to ESWADE’s focus on water and agriculture, it can assist farmers with other challenges such as monitoring water use for irrigation.
This is a new approach, which supports food security and sustainable agriculture as championed by the Kingdom of eSwatini’s National Development Strategy and Vision 2022 document.
The eSusFarm Africa platform can be tailored to include other systems, such as the spatial geographic mapping of smallholder farmers with a dashboard and real-time insights, ESWADE Information Management Systems Manager Zinhle Motsa says. It also enables ESWADE to monitor the water dispensed to smallholder farmers and compare this with their food production, making it possible to monitor the productivity of the water.
The platform can also help extension officers monitor more farmers, because it enables them to compare information with what is on the ground, thus identifying further training for farmers to increase their yields, ESWADE Smallholder Market-Led Project national project director Lynn Kota states.
“This tripartite partnership is testament to the impact that public–private partnerships can have on society and how leveraging technology can improve efficiencies in the region, especially in food security,” says Motsa.
Once smallholder farmers are producing in accordance with proven guidelines, their produce can be exported, which can lead to more intra-African trade in accordance with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor