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11 AgriTech Findings From West African Smallholder Farmers

By Guest Writer on February 3, 2021

west africa ict4d survey

The public ICT4Ag discussion is often focused on the use of smartphones and sophisticated applications. This often neglects more traditional channels and can unfairly prejudice agritech practitioners to exclude older technologies.

The Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) works with smallholder rice farmers in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Tanzania. It wanted to better understand rural farmer affinity towards ICT solutions and overall smartphone adoption. They performed a baseline survey with rice farmers in West Africa and here are the interesting agritech results:

1.  Radio remains the ICT leader

In Nigeria, a total of 89% of interviewed farmers indicated to own a radio. In Burkina Faso it was even a total of 92%. When asked whether they use the radio to access agricultural information, 87% of radio owners in Nigeria indicated that they do. In Burkina Faso it was even 95% of radio owners who use the device to obtain agricultural information.

2. Rice farmers use feature phones

While the survey showed that about 87% of rice farmers in Nigeria and 88% in Burkina Faso have either a smartphone or a feature phone, most farmers continue to rely on simple feature phones (74% and 77% respectively).

3. Farmers have access to smartphones

In Nigeria, of the 74% of rice farmers with just feature phones, more than half indicated to have access to smartphones via friends, children, spouse, and other family members. Similarly, out of the 77% of rice farmers with feature phones in Burkina Faso, more than two thirds have access to smart phones through other people.

4. Many farmers use phones all day

While in Burkina Faso 56% indicated that they use phones throughout the day, it was only 27% of farmers in Nigeria. Most Nigerian farmers indicated to use phones during the evening (39%). In Burkina Faso on the other hand, only 17% indicated to use phones in the evening.

5. Calls are the preferred phone feature

In Nigeria, 85% of farmers indicated that calls are the most important feature of a phone, followed by the internet (8%), entertainment (6%) and mobile data (8%). Less than 1% said that they see SMS text messages as the most important feature. This pattern is even more noticeable in Burkina Faso, with 97% of interviewed farmers preferring phone calls.

6. Most Nigerian can use smartphones

While the sample size is small, smartphone users amongst Nigerian rice farmers indicated they find smartphones easy or very easy to use (98%). Similarly, almost all smartphone users in Nigeria indicated that they know what a mobile software application is (95%) and can download them (92%). In Burkina, however, smartphone users appear to be less familiar with the device with only 65% indicating that the devices are easy or very easy to use. In addition, only 47% said they know what an application is and only 30% can download one.

7. Smartphone users buy 100-1,000 MB per week

In Nigeria, most smartphone users (52%) indicated to purchase between 100 and 500 MB per week. Close to half of the smartphone users in Nigeria indicated that the data they purchase is not sufficient. In Burkina Faso, the majority (66%) indicated to purchase between 300 and 1,000 MB per week. Similar to Nigeria, 42% of smartphone users in Burkina Faso said that the purchased data is not sufficient.

8. Farmers are willing to pay for ag information

In Nigeria, here are the top 5 agricultural information that farmers are willing to pay for:

  1. Market information
  2. Weather information
  3. Inputs: Availability and accessibility
  4. Services: Mechanization
  5. Inputs: Who to get it from

In Burkina Faso, the top 5 agricultural information that farmers are willing to pay for are:

  • Input: Price information of inputs
  • Land preparation
  • Inputs: Application of herbicides
  • Finance: Market information
  • Fertilizer application

9. Farmers are willing to pay $3.50 for ag info

In Nigeria, when asked how much they are willing to pay for agricultural information, a plurality of 37% indicated they would pay somewhere between 0.5 and 2.5 USD per season. Another 23% would only pay less than 0.5 USD. In Burkina Faso, a plurality of 40% indicated they would be willing to pay up to around 1.5 USD per season. 26% indicated that they would be willing to pay between 1.5 and 3.5 USD.

10. In Nigeria, the clear majority prefers audio formats

The survey revealed that 80% of rice farmers would prefer to receive agricultural information by audio, followed by graphic presentations (62%), video (58%), and text (50%).

11. Key Messages

  • Radio is the most prevalent device amongst rice farmers
  • Most farmers can be reached through feature phone-based solutions
  • Bundled solutions of information/advisory may be most effective
  • While only few farmers own smartphones, they appear to be very familiar with them
  • Agricultural information should cost 5 USD per season – ideally less than 3.5 USD
  • ICT solutions need to account for local languages

CARI already started harnessing the insight gained from this survey for their field activities and focus on radio and USSD-based solutions to support rice farmers at scale.

By Kemi Bamishaye, Digital Solutions Advisor, Felix Frewer, M&E Manager, and Laura Rondholz, Communications Manager at GIZ

Filed Under: Agriculture
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6 Comments to “11 AgriTech Findings From West African Smallholder Farmers”

  1. I’d only add that we (esoko) spent 10yrs in 15 countries exploring the commercial viability of farmers subscribing to services, namely market information, disease and weather alerts and despite at the outset having the same expressions of interest and willingness to pay, we could never convert significant numbers into paying subscribers. I’m not claiming ours was a definitive study, or necessarily the right deployment model and/or format, but in the end we concluded that any commercial model would depend not on the soft info services (although smart phones may help re. low SMS acceptance) but on hard services like input financing or guaranteed markets – – pretty much the model in USA and Europe. I still believe few successful models are out there and would invite any contributions that can point to commercially sustainable models.

    • Thank you for Mark for your comments and sharing your experience in exploring the commercial viability of farmers paying for services. Results from our survey on ‘Farmers are willing to pay’ is directed towards what ag information they will possibly pay for e.g. agronomic advice, information on input, services, market, soil and weather. We are also trying to explore ‘bundled services’ to improve the commercial viability of digital services by adding discounted products like improved seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, financial profiling for microcredit, offtake contracts, etc. We hope this is information is helpful.

  2. FJ Cava says:

    I have a question. Where did you get your data on smartphone usage within countries and can you share your source?

    Thanks.

    • Thanks for your question FJ Cava. In response, CARI performed a baseline survey with rice farmers in our implementing countries and generated these data based on the results of the survey. I hope this answers your question. .

  3. Anyela says:

    I agree with Mark, it’s true that farmers express a willingness to pay for the service but in reality many of them cannot afford to pay. This is quite devastating for people who want to rollout a life changing technology. Unfortunatelly revenue is what keeps a company going and doing great work. I have also notice a big disconnect between non-profits and research institutes in Africa whichs great ideas that produced in this institutes are never transferred to farmers.

  4. NICODEMUS OLORUNSHOLA ODOLO says:

    We are Cluster farmers in Nigeria but lack fund to expand and procure modern farming equipments
    I hereby apply for grants for the above stated purposes.
    Thanking you for your consideration.