Agriculture is a major productive sector in African economies and the main contributor to pro-poor growth and poverty reduction, especially in rural areas. The sector is largely subsistence-based. It faces major stresses and shocks caused by environmental degradation and climate change. It is also a major contributor to climate change. Standard Bank aims to work with our clients to increase the profitability and sustainability of Africa’s small-scale farmers, while improving Africa’s food security.
Challenges facing these farmers include lack of funding for the sector, which tends to be informal and fragmented; poor infrastructure; pricing; lack of information; and sale of fake inputs, including fake seeds and fertiliser. Large corporate buyers of agricultural product face uncertainty about the volumes of specific commodities that will be available at harvest, and the risks associated with the application of sub-optimal agricultural processes. Emerging technologies can play a crucial role in helping farmers to manage their costs, improve productivity, and access markets. We are working with our small-scale farming clients to help them make the most of such technologies.
In Uganda, we’re piloting the OneFarm Agri Platform, working with farmers and cooperatives to help them ensure a successful and profitable maize crop. Five cooperatives, 350 farmers, a maize aggregator and a local tech start-up have partnered with us for the pilot. The farms have been GPS-mapped and validated by satellite. Standard Bank has allocated a credit risk limit to each farmer, based on their verified farm size. Sixteen local agents, chosen from the various cooperatives, have received training and smartphones, and are employed to do farmer profiling, manage input distribution and support the farmers. The bank has financed high quality seed and fertilizer, and access to tractor time, for distribution to the farmers. The team has also employed an agronomist to provide training on best practices to the farmers and manage demo farms. We’ve developed monitoring dashboards for each farm, integrating the satellite data. These dashboards ensure potential threats, such as pests and disease, can be detected at an early stage, enabling a quick response and maximising the proportion of the crop that can be successfully harvested. The bank is also working with the farmers to help them access markets/off-takers for their crops, ensuring that they receive a fair price for their produce. Early indications show that the increased access to working capital has enabled farmers to plant additional fields, while access to tractor time has made it easier to cultivate the larger area. Farmers have increased their capacity significantly as a result of this initiative.
In Zambia, we’re helping local farmers keep better track of their crops, make more informed decisions, and engage more effectively with the financing partners, through a digital satellite application. The web- and mobile-based Contour app, developed in partnership with Origin Enterprises Plc (trading under RHIZA), uses agricultural satellite imaging and analysis to give farmers satellite data, crop growth models, soil analysis mapping, independent fertilizer recommendations and weather data. The app is affordable, working out at about USD5.50 per hectare. Farmers can pick the pricing plan which suits their farm, and those who get the app through Stanbic Bank receive it for half price. The information, which is accurate and secure, enables farmers to keep better track of their crops and make more informed decisions, helping them to improve planning, decision making and responsiveness, save money and improve their yields. The bank also benefits, as we can monitor what is happening on the ground, and use this insight to tailor our services according to each farms’ needs.
We are working with UN Women on a programme to empower women by enhancing agricultural productivity and income, through climate smart agriculture – farming methods and commodities that are resilient to climate change. Standard Bank has pledged USD3 million over two years.
The programme is running in Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. It includes a focus on improved weather forecasting, early warning systems, and insurance to help farmers reduce risk.
The programme is being run in partnership with local farmer associations and cooperatives, relevant UN agencies and international aid agencies, national and local governments, local private sector partners and NGOs. The aim is to reach over 50 000 women across the four countries over three years, providing them with entrepreneurial and financial capacities, affordable technology and value addition, and using ICT to increase access to markets and to finance.