November 27, 2022

Field Focus Week ‘22: Mitigating barriers to scaling key Agriculture digitisation use-cases

The AgriTech programme organised its latest FFW last month in Nairobi, Kenya. The FFW is primarily a convening of the GSMA AgriTech programme team and the programme’s Innovation Fund grantees – agritechs and mobile network operators (MNOs). It consists of collaborative sessions to promote problem-solving, knowledge sharing, and capacity building. In addition, the FFW leverages the strength of the agritech ecosystem in the host country to include relevant presentation sessions and field visits to local agritech’s beneficiaries. The FFW ‘22 came on the back of a 2-year program-wide travel ban following the travel restrictions that followed the COVID-19 pandemic. During the two years, Grantees’ and the project management team’s interactions were limited to remote or hybrid models of research and collaborative sessions as described in our previous publication, AgriTech UX in an Era of Remote Work. The opportunity to convene in Nairobi was thus met with both excitement and relief as the different AgriTech Innovation grantees; MTN Rwanda, MTN Ghana, Vodacom Tanzania, Jazz Pakistan, Dialog Sri Lanka, PT Koltiva (Indonesia) and AgroMall (Nigeria) would finally physically meet to share and learn from one another’s projects and explore opportunities to collaborate.  

The GSMA AgriTech Programme supported by the FCDO awarded 3-year grants of up to a maximum of 220K GBP to its grantees in 2019. Through this funding, grantees are scaling digital solutions targeting the rural smallholder farmers and farming communities with the ultimate goal of improving smallholders’ financial inclusion, livelihood, and climate resilience. The innovative solutions are being built in line with the GSMA-defined groups of digital agriculture solutions which are placed into three categories based on the problem they solve for farmers.​

Figure 1. Adapted illustration of the key digital agriculture use-cases

The AgriTech programme has provided additional support to the grantees in the form of in-kind capacity building, UX research, and Monitoring and Evaluation to boost the development and refinement of business models and products/services. Fast-forward to May 2022, the grantees have implemented their proposed business models to varying levels of success and most are on the verge of scaling their services both geographically within their markets and in terms of number of clientele reached. However, from the ongoing project management catchups, a majority have been faced with uncertainties on the best approach to achieve sustainable scale. As such, this FFW provided an opportunity to discuss the individual grantee’s progress while highlighting the barriers faced. 

Barriers to sustainable scaling of innovative solutions 

The following barriers to sustainable scaling the innovative solutions beyond the life of the fund were identified. 

Farmer profiling and registrations 

Barrier – The prohibitive cost of scaling agent-led farmer profiling and registration initiatives 

While most grantees acknowledge the role of agency-based models in mobilizing smallholders, scaling such agency-based models as the business scales is proving...

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