Written by: Dr. ir. Andre Jellema, Agricultural Programme Manager at Auxfin International, project lead GAP4A project. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s).
The challenges for smallholder farmers in Burundi to create enough and nutritious food for their families are manifold:
AUXFIN is solving these problems one by one in the G4AW GAP4A project by organising the farmers in groups of 50 (the G50) and connecting them to (agricultural) information and services. In the G50 approach, Farmers are organised in voluntary groups of maximum 50 households living close together. These groups choose three self-elected leaders as representatives for men, women, young, and old people. The groups get access to the information services, via a tablet and are invited to start working on their self-development goals using these digital tools. The group leaders are trained to govern this process and to ensure that the all group members, including unschooled or illiterate people can also benefit and are not left behind.
“I like the social side of it, where we get to help one another, there is less loneliness and we don’t have to struggle on our own. That is what I appreciate as a group leader and also as being part of the G50.’’ Marguerite from Rutoke-gr1 in Karusi
To assist the G50 groups in their self-development Auxfin and its partners provide information and services in four eCoach services: AgriCoach, NutritionCoach, HealthCoach, and FinanceCoach. The services range from work and income, finance, governance, health, education, to social services.
As an example, the AgriCoach provides information on:
Satellite based weather information and the seasonal forecast is key in this application, it is updated on a daily basis.
The agent app and seed online market place enables farmers to order inputs directly from the suppliers. It is no longer needed to travel to pre-order and pre-pay the inputs as farmers can do it online. Some G50’s even managed to get their inputs delivered by the providers by placing a large order together. When using AgriCoach farmers started to sell their surplus to the market. After delivery and verification of the produce farmers get paid directly into their bank account.
"Before we had to go to COPEC the post office to pay advances to get fertilizers. That was difficult. We had to pay 20.000 for 2 sacks of fertilizers. We had to leave in the morning and could return at 8 in the evening. After that to collect the fertilizers, we would spend several days or even a week, before we could hand in the voucher and get the fertilizers. We appreciate what AUXFIN is doing. Now it is better, we can get the fertilizers easier, without waiting.” Agnès from Nyabwigungo-gr2 in Gitega”
The NutritionCoach provides information on food composition, diversification and recipes for crops that are available, nutritious, but less well known.
The HealthCoach provides information and what preventive measures to take and how to treat for the most common diseases.
The FinanceCoach enables the farmers to start planning their financial needs for the coming seasons. For each member the platform provides access to an individual account connected to a bank account at a local micro-finance institute (MFI’s). This means that the group members can start saving, make transactions, and can receive credit at a distance.
"Before I was part of G50 and started saving, when I would get money, I would waste it on unnecessary things like spending it in the bar and using it unwisely. Now when I get 1,000 BIF (~$0.50) over time it becomes a lot. As before we would eat the money directly, we would never see the impact. Now we are setting it apart. That is beneficial. We are learning to save for things that we need.” Floride from Kindahwe-gr2 in Karusi
The current 8,000 G50 farmer groups are being organised in Burundi, connecting approximately 2.3 million people to the platform. The system is built in such a way that it can easily be scaled to other countries in the region where smallholder farmers are facing similar problems and challenges.
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The G4AW programme has many projects worldwide with a wide-ranging variety of stakeholders. We occasionally invite partners to share their own experiences, best practices and insights via blogs on our website to inspire and inform our audience.