Block Commodities’ journey into Uganda: what agriculture needs
Clinton Van Eden, Head of African Operations at Block Commodities hits the road in Uganda to talk to farmers part of Block’s pilot project in Uganda in partnership with Pure Grow Africa.
According to the World Bank, agriculture employs 70% of Uganda’s population and represent a quarter of its GDP; however, the economic divide between commercial and small-scale farming means that many farmers live at the margin of financial inclusion. According to the International Development firm Trias, most Ugandan farmers earn around ten euros a month. Agricultural output in Uganda has grown at about 2% per annum over the last five years — below the 3–5% growth rates in other East African countries.
Smart agriculture, one that is powered by innovative tools such as drones and AI, have the potential of upscaling output and generating profits for farmers.
As the majority of the population live in rural areas, developments in agricultural technology, ICT, and agribusiness models cannot only boosts economic activity but also offer better employment prospects for the young generation and improve quality of life for farmers.
Hoping to bring economic opportunity and social change to African farmers, Block Commodities is developing Farmer 3.0, an integrated ecosystem of smart agriculture harnessing disruptive technologies to optimise agricultural activity and output using a blockchain-powered platform along with machine learning, predictive behavioural analytics and data-driven marketing.
Farmer 3.0 pilot project was launched in September and contemplates 1,000 Ugandan smallholder farmers with cryptocurrency loans for farmers to purchase fertiliser and use of technology to enhance production.
Clinton van Eden, Head of African Operations at Block Commodities, along with Bobby Juuko Kimbugwe, CEO at Pure Grow Africa visited farmers in rural Uganda to hear about their experiences and challenges.
“We lack funding to grow our production, and we need the training to ensure better techniques,” says Jane, a 46-year-old small-scale farmer in remote Uganda. Jane’s stories are typical across Africa. She raises pineapple, banana, cassava and coffee; part of her production goes to feed her family, the remaining is sold at the local level.
Among her recent pineapple production, some of the produces were affected by pests and cannot be sold or consumed — a problem that could be solved if only Jane could afford to use pesticides. “Use of pesticides can increase production in 20 to 50% in terms of quantity and quality,” says Clinton.
Furthermore, access to information and education is another crucial factor to make sure farmers take most of the technologies that are available to them. Jane, for example, doesn’t understand the value of her own crops. These hindrances contribute to keeping farmers like Jane at the margin of the economy and trade, not being able to be an integral part of the agricultural market.
On top of that, the information gap means that many farmers still use the old-fashioned way of farming, which is inefficient and holds back output. In a country where half of the women are illiterate, this is even more dramatic. “More than offering technologies and tools, our job is to close the information gap and educate these farmers so that they can take the most of their lands,” says Clinton.
The long-established agricultural system in Africa has only addressed the external needs and interests of commercial players. It is about time we developed an ecosystem which prioritises the people of Africa. “We place smallholder farmers at the centre of our work. We want them to understand that they don’t need to have money on their hands to grow production,” says Bobby from Pure Grow.
“Our mission is to take the burden off the farmers’ shoulders so they can focus only on production and let them be the best farmers they can be,” adds Clinton.
Innovation and technology can support a revolution in the agricultural and food industry, allowing Africa to fight hunger and poverty, as well as becoming an agri-food powerhouse and an important player in the global food market.
Upon successful completion of the pilot phase in Uganda, Block Commodities aims to expand the scheme to 50,000 smallholder farmers linked to Pure Grow.
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