Agriculture, as we have said many times before, is the foundation of development across Africa. With a huge amount of small holder farmers and arable land across the continent, the potential for Africa to feed itself and not rely foreign food imports. Technology is enabling small farmers to change and develop their farms. There are apps to help people sell their produce at a fair price, innovative insurances for livestock farmers, apps to help farmers across the world share information and increase their farming skills, and even innovative machinery, made for the African setting, like the Tryktor.
In this blog, it is the humble tractor that receives all of the attention. Nana Kwame Darko, from Ghana, is the most recent of our highly valued guest bloggers to shine a light on innovation in Africa. He writes of an innovation that could change the lives of thousands of farmers in Ghana.
Today, technology is unavoidable in the different sectors of any economy in the world. The impact is very evident in agriculture. In Ghana presently, a team of young agripreneurs (entrepreneurs in agriculture) are have come up with an innovation for agriculture. Their mission is to connect smallholder farmers to tractors and other processing machinery.
The name of the TROTRO Tractor. The word ‘trotro’ is a Ghanaian word for a mini bus used in public transport which is patronised by many due to its availability, accessibility and affordability. In the same vane, TROTRO Tractor is poised at making mechanisation services available, accessible and affordable to their clients. Farming equipment is expensive to own and maintain and almost impossible for smallholder farmers who usually only cultivate an average area of two (2) acres each.
There is also a big gap when you consider the ratio of tractors to farmers in Ghana. According to the FAO Stat report, the tractor–farmer ratio in the country stands at 1:1,500. This has resulted into a long term deficit. All effort by government to make mechanisation accessible since 2007 has not been successful. As an agribusiness company TROTRO Tractor is harnessing the power of science and technology to transform agriculture in Ghana and Africa at large.
In TROTRO Tractor’s effort to improve the productivity and income of farmers, which will mean better livelihoods and food availability in Ghana, they have developed a simple technology platform where farmers, who are their prime clients, can pre-request and pay for mechanisation services using mobile money. By dialling a unique short code – *714*85# on all mobile networks and following the prompts you will be taken through the procedure.
What makes this services accessible to all is, one doesn’t need a specialised mobile phone, app, call time or internet to enjoy. This self-service allows all without discrimination to access machinery. This gives women farmers, who are marginalised, the opportunity to not only farm but be able to expand their existing farms. Farmers are able to work within their farming schedule and the drudgery is reduced.
During their pilot where the business model was tested, over 600 acres of arable land was prepared for 325 farmers. 30% of these were women, many who were farming for the first time. With three (3) brand new tractors, these farmers were very satisfied with the services provided by TROTRO Tractor. Among the services provided included: ploughing, ridging and planting.
Unique Value Proposition
With their pricing strategy; they were welcomed in all the communities they operated. This gave TROTRO Tractor an upper-hand over their competitors who were other private tractor owners. As part of the services rendered to the smallholder farmers, TROTRO Tractor also did ‘farmer profiling’ – in simple terms data collection. This is an activity of farmer personal data inputting, farm size validation and farm mapping using a GARMIN device. This was an add-on service.
Finally, TROTRO Tractor by this novelty is going to take care of tractor scarcity in Ghana. The startup is legally registered and incorporated prepared for the next season and hoping to increase its fleet to be able to expand to other communities and reach more farmers.
Note from editor – Thank you to Nana Kwame for being a guest blogger on Inventive Africa. Developing the agricultural sector relies on access to credit and technology. TROTRO Tractor are enabling more farmers to plough their lands, a process that can be costly and lengthy. Farming has deadlines! It is important to start growing certain crops by certain times, and if the land has not been ploughed in time, it will seriously impact productivity. I have had to plough land in Ghana before, and it was costly and took a long time to arrange. This system will be welcomed by many farmers.
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