By Byron Mutingwende
Ecofarmer is working towards modernising agriculture by embracing technologies in order to improve production efficiency, achieve food security and profitability for farmers.
In a speech read on his behalf by Mr. Leonard Munamati – the Provincial Crop and Livestock Production Officer for Mashonaland East Province at the Ecofarmer Agri-tech expo held at Murehwa Centre on 2 November 2018, Rtd Air Chief Marshall Perrance Shiri, the Minister of Agriculture, said the Ecofarmer platform is focused on turning around the fortunes of the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe.
The EcoFarmer Expo 2018 ran under the theme, “Taking farming to the next level” which is significant in several respects among others. It is the first EcoFarmer event under the stewardship of His Excellency President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and the current government of Zimbabwe.
“The occasion also assumes significant importance because it is being introduced at a time when my Ministry is increasingly seeking ways to modernise agriculture, improve production efficiency, and achieve food security, and profitability for our farmers.
“In his inauguration speech, His Excellency, the President, pointed out that under the ‘New Economic Order’, Government’s economic policy will also be anchored on agriculture. To give life and meaning to the president’s vision and agenda, my Ministry upholds the potential of ICTs and innovation as powerful tools to transform agriculture in Zimbabwe. My Ministry seeks to transform agriculture from its subsistence farming, low productivity and weak financial support, into a technology driven agriculture that can guarantee increased productivity, food security, and profitability and reduced post-harvest losses,” Minister Shiri said.
Mr. Douglas Mboweni, the Chief Executive Officer of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe weighed in by reiterating that Ecofarmer is about smart farming which involves sending of farming information via the mobile phone.
“Ecofarmer provides farmers with knowledge and connects them with experts like agricultural extension officers. It also gives them access to various service providers. It connects them with product suppliers and buyers, that is the markets. Ecofarmer eliminates middlemen who dupe farmers by buying their produce at low prices and later selling them at higher profits,” Mr. Mboweni said.
It was noted that while the goal of the Cassava SmartTech is to leverage information, communication and technology (ICT) and innovation to solve some of the country’s development problems, the choice of agriculture as its first focus sector and creating Agri-tech in Zimbabwe was commended.
Farmers from all the ten provinces came to the expo and exhibited at EcoFarmer Expo.
“I am personally impressed by the innovations being showcased here today. I am even more pleased to hear that over 1 million farmers have now been registered on EcoFarmer platform and I am hopeful that the insights shared at this EcoFarmer event will assist our farmers, agribusinesses, and all public institutions involved in agricultural development, to further comprehend the potential of ICTs and digital solutions in today’s business.
“I was particularly impressed by this approach of bundling products and services through the EcoFarmer Club – allowing our farmers a one stop solution for farming tips, checking market prices, allowing farmers to trade over the phone, allowing farmers to check live weather updates, and topping that up with a transactional membership card-which gives you great discounts when buying your farming inputs. Takakura tichiziva ma Club asi iyi EcoFarmer Club yave mberi chokwadi,” Mr. Munamati, the representative of the agriculture minister at the expo said.
Information Communication Technology and Courier Services Deputy Minister, Mr. Jerifan Muswere said the Ecofarmer initiative would help the country in reducing food imports while increasing exports. Ecofarmer integrates farmers, suppliers, markets and banks, there by growing the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Mr. Ishmael Sunga, the Chief Executive Officer of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) attended the Ecofarmer Agri-tech Expo to learn how ICTs can be used to enhance agricultural development in an inclusive manner.
“The Ecofarmer platform is important in that it uses the mobile phone that reaches many farmers in a fast manner as widely as possible. Thus farmers will be provided with updates, market issues, climate information, disaster preparedness and knowledge on disease prevention,” Mr. Sunga said.
The EcoFarmer mobile platform enables farmers to get location-specific weather information coupled with advisory tips that will help them make decisions regarding the right actions to take in response to the forecasted weather patterns.
The EcoFarmer Club card would also give farmers access to special farming events, over and above access to exclusive products, such as an exclusive Steward Health Farmers package.
Econet’s Head of Agri-business, Ms Caroline Mozhendi described the product in detail, saying that for existing, registered EcoFarmer customers to subscribe to the EcoFarmer Club, they needed to “subscribe” to the EcoFarmer Club, and enjoy all the benefits of the Club.
For an entirely new customer, to register to the Club, one would first need to be a registered EcoCash user. Thereafter they would simply dial *144#, to register for EcoFarmer, and select the EcoFarmer Club on the menu to subscribe and enjoy the Club’s benefits.