1.4 millionfarmers targeted
Building A Brighter Future – Leveraging The Power Of AgriTech and A Global Network Of Partners For Transforming The Lives Of Smallholder Farmers
Mercy Corps is a global humanitarian aid organisation established in 1979 and headquartered in Portland, USA. The organisation partners with local communities, corporations, and governments to transform lives around the world and has assisted more than 220 million people to survive humanitarian conflicts, seek improvements in livelihoods, and deliver durable development to their communities. Currently, the organisation operates within 40 countries with over 6,000 team members, with programs focused on a number of humanitarian sectors ranging from conflict management, children & youth to agriculture and food security.
Mercy Corps’ AgriFin program helps agri organisations across the world to try, test and adopt technology to manage and uplift smallholder farmers. Since 2012, they have worked with over 100 private and public sector partners, including mobile network operators, financial institutions, farmer networks, technology innovators, agriculture value-chain players, training organisations, government, and other key market stakeholders to build bundles of mobile services for smallholder farmers, including:
⦁ E-learning platforms, so farmers have access to up-to-date information on the best farming practices
⦁ Access to discounted quality inputs, so farmers can reduce the cost of production
⦁ Access to markets, so farmers get better prices for their produce
⦁ Access to financial services, so farmers can invest, grow, and save for the future, and mitigate shocks through access to insurance
⦁ Climate-smart and precision/decision agriculture insights
Since 2012, Mercy Corps’ AgriFin program has reached 3.5 million smallholder farmers across Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe working with multiple organisations like Safaricom, FMN, Diageo, and Heineken. Mercy Corps is committed to expanding AgriFin to 12 additional countries in Sub Saharan Africa, the Americas, and Asian regions, lifting 10 million smallholder farmers out of poverty by 2023.
Mercy Corps partnered with Safaricom, the largest telecommunication provider in Kenya, for digitising 250,000 farmers and 3,600+ Digital Village Advisors (DVAs) in Kenya. The DVA program, supported by Mercy Corps AgriFin, has already met its target to reach 1.4 million farmers by 2020.
Many of the field processes were performed manually, which led to discrepancies in data storage and analysis. Farm reports were not consistent and the extensive paperwork resulted in the loss of valuable data. Digitising the various operations across the board was the priority. There was a need for a one-stop solution that improves efficiency for users at all levels and provides real-time insights to key stakeholders. The solution also had to be user-friendly and customisable to the requirements of users to help make operations more productive. Some of the specific challenges that the organisation faced include:
⦁ Cumbersome and cost-ineffective process of the DVAs to capture data
⦁ Loss of data due to manual data collection through forms
⦁ Lack of accurate means to geo-map plots
⦁ Need for a centralised system for sending advisories to farmers on weather and PoPs (package of practices)
⦁ Lack of visibility on the activities of DVAs – the field staff
⦁ Difficulty in monitoring the quantity of agrochemicals used by farmers
⦁ Inconsistent yield insights
⦁ Requirement for real-time crop health monitoring
Owing to their unique requirements for this project in Kenya, Mercy Corps trusted CropIn and partnered with them in 2019 to leverage SmartFarm® for
⦁ Geo-Mapping of plots
⦁ Digitising farms and farmers data
⦁ Tracking activities of DVAs
SmartFarm® is an end-to-end farm data management solution that monitors all processes leading up to harvest. The solution leverages ground-truth data, weather advisory, and accurate insights based on satellite monitoring to enable data-driven farm and business operations. By tracking, managing and monitoring every step — from input to execution — all in one place, SmartFarm® helps achieve efficiency and improves traceability and output predictability.
⦁ Digitisation – CropIn’s successful implementation of its digital technology enabled the Mercy Corps – Safaricom project to remotely monitor and manage 97,239 plots across Kenya
⦁ Area Audit – CropIn’s SmartFarm® has audited over 9,28,940 acres of farmland for various crops such as Beans, Peas, Broccoli, Soybean, Green gram, Sorghum, Sunflower and Maize
⦁ Digifarm Village Advisors– Over 3,600+ DVAs have leveraged SmartFarm’s mobile application for farmer registration, plot registration, and geo-tagging the cultivated land. Over 100,000 farmers’ data has been digitally captured and added to the system by DVAs
⦁ Ease Of Operations– Adopting CropIn’s platform brought about ease of operations, both on and off the field. By configuring SmartFarm® to each user level’s specific requirements, the DVAs were able to accurately track and capture essential data points, even from activities that were unplanned
⦁ Centralised Platform– CropIn serves as a centralised platform where users at multiple levels in various departments can access farm-level data and insightful reports on the activities, to further improve people, process and performance
⦁ Quality Control– CropIn’s digital platform facilitated the monitoring of field activities for intensive quality control. By configuring the best package of practices for each crop variety, and by creating a detailed activity plan based on the crop’s growth cycle, the DVAs ensure that the right farm practices are being followed at the right point of time
Some of the other notable features that aided the digitisation activities include:
⦁ An offline mode that enables data collection even in the absence of internet connectivity in remote locations
⦁ Multilingual support in 15+ regional languages, which simplifies the company’s communication with users in countries where English is not the primary language
⦁ High levels of data encryption to provide security and preserve privacy
Mercy Corps is funding the first year of this project with Safaricom onboarding 250,000 farmers in 2019-20 and scaling-up to 1.4 million farmers by March 2021. As it can be observed, the combination of convenience and ease of use, along with a smart package of numerous practical yet unique features has resulted in the success of CropIn’s partnership with the client. CropIn is set to scale up its operations by leveraging its cutting-edge AI- and ML-based solutions for all-round progress of its operations.
The project will also be scaled up to involve :
⦁ Sending advisory on weather and PoPs– Customised recommendations and advisories through SMS in the local language. By configuring the best package of practices for each crop variety, and by creating a detailed activity plan based on the crop’s growth cycle ensures higher quality produce.
⦁ Tracking application of agri inputs– To ensure higher quality produce that is compliant with international market regulations and standards.
⦁ Yield detection and health monitoring– Monitoring the plot and predicting the yield through remote sensing and satellite imagery utilising plot history, existing vegetation and sowing window data. This intelligence helps both the farmers and the field extension teams to plan their tasks before the season.