Verdant Agritech aims to become Nigeria’s biggest reservoir of useful agricultural data. It also wants to connect the country’s farmers, input providers, extension officers, NGOs, and financial institutions to create one large value-multiplying ecosystem.
It’s a project ambitious enough to inspire the starriest eyed but daunting enough to shoo off the bravest hearts. The present picture of this landscape is a patchwork of poor smallholder farmers, cynical financial houses, and a public sector that’s notoriously slow at redeeming its pledges to any sector.
The market information that’s required to link these aspects of the economy is sketchy at best. In most cases, it’s just not there.
But Nasir Yammama thinks the bridges can be constructed. He’s building them with Verdant, which he founded in 2014. He has decided to collect the unavailable information himself and put it in front of the people who need it the most: crop growers, equipment suppliers, financial houses, and public sector agencies.
Verdant strives to accomplish this by leveraging digital technology. Yammama’s involvement with technology goes back to his childhood days in which he participated in (and won) several IT competitions. But he’s also the son of a farmer and is aware of the hardship faced by people who earn their income from working the land. Not surprisingly, his venture has merged both these two parts of his life.
As a result, Yammama is extra-cautious about adapting technology to suit the realities of the farming occupation as he knows it. Verdant’s digital solutions are finely tuned, but they are also fit for low-end mobile phones and give their users the option of accessing information in their native language.
These solutions can be accessed by farmers, input sellers, extension officers, and any others who need current production and market information to make decisions. The applications send commodity prices, weather reports, and updates from financial institutions to stakeholders.
There are three of these products on offer from Verdant. Two of these are Rumbu, which is a mobile agricultural support service for farmers and Kaspa, which collects farmer activity data and prepares it for use by parties interested in using it.
The third, Platfex, sources weather updates, market prices, extension services, and data about farm produce from across the value chain and gets it to farmers and anyone else who could use the information. Platfex is a collaborative project involving Verdant Agritech and Oxfam, an international conglomeration of NGOs.
The Verdant team wants to harness the data they obtain and offer it as a service to relevant government agencies and international bodies. They figure that it could help authorities make informed decisions about the planning and execution of their agricultural policies, and encourage private interests to make greater commitments to the sector.
But first, they will have to reach out to more farmers. Verdant reports that it has linked up with at least 10,000 farmers thus far. That’s a big number, but it’s just a tiny fraction of the 38 million that make a living off farmlands scattered all over the country. The team has stepped up its efforts in recent months, and could near their next target- tripling yields for 25,000 farmers –in the not-too-distant future.
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