"Simply type in Tshs. 18,000,000, I am aware of how to plead for this loan,"
The pleading voice of my neighbor, a smallholder farmer in Katumba, Sumbawanga, reached me. I was assisting her in creating a budget to obtain a loan from a Bank. I inquired,
"Have they ever visited your farm? Are they aware of its size? Do they understand the climate conditions of your farm? Have you ever produced any farm income report in the past to gain their trust for a loan without collateral? Will that Tshs.18Million be given to you in cash or will they pay input suppliers so you can obtain the inputs you need? Is Tshs.18million sufficient?"
She replied with sadness,
"Too many questions that I don't have answers for. Every season I try to put together this budget and proposal. I know I won't get this loan. Sometimes it feels like being a smallholder farmer is a curse. Everyone seems to care about us, but they really don't. Obtaining a loan from a bank as a smallholder farmer? We are a joke to them. I'm just going through the motions, hoping maybe a miracle will happen. Please just help me finish the budget."
As a child of smallholder farmers, I have personally witnessed the struggles and hardships that these brave men and women face on a daily basis. Growing up with my beloved grandmother, who was also a smallholder farmer, before she passed away, she repeatedly warned me, "When you go to college and become educated, do not become like those so-called intellectuals who come and interrogate us as if they are judges, pretending to want to help. They take our pictures and videos and then vanish" Her words have stayed with me, driving me to strive to be a truly empathetic and supportive ally to these resilient and hardworking individuals.
I vividly recall those days as I toiled in our small plot of earth, the scorching sun bearing down on my weary back, and a wave of hopelessness engulfing me. As a smallholder farmer in the remote countryside of Tanzania, I struggled to eke out a living on the family land that we held dear. Yet, despite our tireless effort and devotion, it appeared as if the obstacles we faced were insurmountable. Drawing from my personal experience as a smallholder farmer, I desire to share with you the challenges that smallholder farmers like myself have encountered and continue to face today:
1. Access to credit and Insurance
Perhaps the biggest challenge we faced and still facing smallholder farmers even today is the lack of access to credit. Without access to loans or other forms of financial assistance, it is difficult to invest in things like seeds or fertilizer. As a result, farmers crops often fail to thrive, leading to a vicious cycle of poverty and despair.
For those who may not be familiar, credit is a form of financial assistance that allows us to borrow money in order to invest in our farms and improve our livelihoods. It is a crucial tool that allows us to take risks, innovate, and grow our businesses. However, smallholder farmers in Africa, often struggle to access credit due to a lack of collateral, inadequate documentation, financial history and a lack of access to financial institutions.
This lack of credit has a ripple effect on smallholder farmer communities. Without the necessary financial support, they are unable to purchase the necessary inputs like seeds, fertilizers, and equipment that would allow them to increase their yields and improve their income. This means that they are unable to feed their families and provide for communities, leading to a cycle of poverty and malnutrition.
But the impact of the lack of credit goes beyond just their personal lives. It also has a detrimental effect on the agricultural sector as a whole. Without access to credit, smallholder farmers are unable to modernize and adopt new technologies, leading to a lack of innovation and progress in the industry.
2. Limited access to extension services:
Many smallholder farmers in Africa do not have access to extension services that could provide them with valuable information and support. It is common for one extension officer to be responsible for overseeing the needs of more than 1000 smallholder farmers. This is an overwhelming task, as it is nearly impossible for one person to effectively provide support and guidance to so many farmers.
Imagine trying to run a farm with only one extension officer to turn to for guidance and support. How can they possibly help you when they are overwhelmed with so many other farmers to assist? It feels like you are constantly trying to navigate the world of farming on your own, with no one to turn to for help or guidance.
Without the necessary tools and resources, extension officers are unable to provide the level of support that smallholder farmers desperately need. This leaves farmers feeling isolated and unsupported, leading to decreased productivity and income.
3. Climate change:
Smallholder farmers in Africa are increasingly facing the impacts of climate change. This includes extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and heatwaves, which can have devastating effects on crops and livestock.
As temperatures continue to rise and weather patterns become increasingly erratic, smallholder farmers are struggling to adapt and maintain their crop yields.
One major issue is the increasing frequency of drought and water shortages. Many smallholder farmers rely on rainwater for irrigation, and as drought becomes more common, they are unable to grow crops or feed their livestock. This can lead to food insecurity and financial hardship for farmers and their families.
Another challenge is the impact of extreme weather events, such as floods and storms. These events can destroy crops and infrastructure, making it difficult for farmers to recover and maintain their livelihoods.
Smallholder farmers in Africa lack the resources and knowledge to adapt to these changing conditions. They may not have access to irrigation systems or drought-resistant crops, and may not be aware of the best practices for adapting to a changing climate.
4. Limited access to markets and Traceability Challenge:
Many smallholder farmers in Africa live in rural areas that are isolated from major markets, making it difficult for them to find buyers for their products. In addition, smallholder farmers often lack access to reliable information about market prices and demand, which makes it difficult for them to make informed decisions about what to grow and sell.
Another challenge is the lack of traceability of their products. Smallholder farmers do not have the resources or technology to track the origin and journey of their products from farm to market, which makes it difficult for them to differentiate their products and command a higher price. This lack of traceability also makes it difficult for smallholder farmers to ensure that their products meet the standards and requirements of buyers, which can limit their access to certain markets.
How is Mazao Hub positioned to solve all above challenges?
Mazao Hub is an ecosystem designed to bring together key players in agriculture namely:
ii. Agronomists & extension officers,
iii. Agri dealers,
vi. Off takers,
ix. Banks and Insurance,
x. Agricultural Boards,
Mazao Hub provides ERP modules for each player mentioned above to enable them manage their key day to day farming activities and business operations. AS Farm ERP platform enables mentioned key players above to manage farmers, farming activities and control complex farm operations, make data-driven decisions, optimize cost, improve yields based on real-time insights and advanced field analytics.
Mazao Hub ecosystem is categorized in the following key areas:
a) Farmer Mapping. This is the first tool into Mazao Hub available as Mobile App that can be used by Farmers, Agronomists & Extension officers, Agri dealers, Cooperatives and even banks or insurance to achieve the following goals:
· To know location of each farmer and farms. This makes farmers traceable.
· To know the size of the farm
· To collect farmer identity like National ID, Fingerprint and other information.
· To know climatic behavior of each farm area,
b) Farm Programs or Farm Management. This is the second tool into Mazao Hub available as Mobile App that can be used by Farmers, Agronomists & Extension officers, Agri dealers, Cooperatives and even banks or insurance to achieve the following goals:
· To identify cost of each farm
· To identify cost of production life cycle with all Good Agricultural practices,
· To provide transparency between service providers serving farmers. This is important for banks giving loan to farmers, instead of giving cash to farmers they pay directly to service providers.
· To provide tools to monitor farming activities, farm progress to harvest.
· To create traceability reports for each harvest based on the monitored farm progress or activities took place in the farm.
c) Farm Supply Chain