Making Cellphone Farming Sexy

So last week I spoke about how the idea of YouFarm was conceived. I had to deal with a reality that many farmers in Zimbabwe face, and that is lack of access to capital. According to a study on demand for financing by Mapfiza (2010), 45% of small holder farmers, 65% of small scale A2 farmers and 70-80% of medium to large scale farmers, expressed an interest in seeking finance if it was available.

Zimbabweans have always been interested in agriculture, after all our economy is agri-based. Here are some stats on what agriculture contributes to Zimbabwe’ economy:

  • 15-19% of GDP ( 30% at its peak);
  • 60% of agricultural output goes to the manufacturing sector in the form of raw materials;
  • Consumes nearly 40% of the manufacturing sectors output in the form if fertilizers, farm implements;
  • Provides employment for 60-70% of the working population;
  • Accounts for one third of export earnings

Perhaps it was the propaganda that was fed to us during the land reform program or the fact that we all have a rural home where our relatives live off the land as subsistence farmers, but Zimbabweans have always had an attachment to agriculture and the land.

Land Redistribution

Following the land reform program in 2000, Zimbabwe found itself with a new breed of farmers. Many lacked an understanding or an appreciation of farming or agriculture in general. Having a farm became a status symbol and perhaps this is how the cellphone farmer emerged. This was the guy who would put on his floppy hat, jump into his Toyota Prado and go take a look and the vast tracts of land that he had been given by government. The cellphone farmer did not realise that farming was a full time job and that taking friends out on a weekend to go and see one hectare of maize was not successful farming.

Some of these cellphone farmers who saw the potential in agriculture moved to their farms full time. Barking orders on the phone to a farm manager is a recipe for disaster. Would you run a multi-million dollar company like Old Mutual or Delta Beverages using your phone and only visiting your office on weekends? I think not! Farming is potentially a multi-million dollar operation and should be treated as such.

Participatory Farming

People are now becoming more and more conscious about what they consume. Is it organic, was it ethically farmed and is child labour used in the production. YouFarm gives consumers a say in how their food is grown. If you do not support the use of chemicals in agriculture, YouFarm gives you the opportunity to invest in organic produce. You get to do your part and have a say. One of my goals is to create farmers who do not own any land.

The Irony

Cellphone farmers have always annoyed me, but it turns out that cellphone farming is the solution to financial inclusion for farmers and getting agriculture going again in Zimbabwe. The YouFarm Crowd Farming Platform is web based and our mobile application allows people to participate in the agricultural value chain by investing in crops and livestock. By providing the finance for inputs they automatically become farmers. Additionally, by allowing people to select the type of crop they want to invest in they get to have a say in what is produced. YouFarm makes being a cellphone farmer sexy!

Follow us on Facebook or on twitter @YouFarmZim. To register as a farmer or investor log onto the website and fill out the registration forms.

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