Econet comes to the rescue of the farmer

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ZIMBABWE’s largest mobile phone operator, Econet Wireless plans to launch an information communications technology (ICT) package called EcoFarmer specifically tailored for the agricultural sector, The Patriot has established.
One of the key characteristics of the package is a weather-indexed drought insurance service for small holder farmers, among other features.
Agricultural experts have long called for a small-holder farmer insurance cover for crops.
Addressing farmers at the recently held Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) congress in Gweru, Econet Wireless representative Ben Nyakanda said the insurance service will allow farmers to make a financial claim if their crops fail in the event of inadequate or excessive rainfall.
“When a farmer can plant crops knowing that crop failure does not mean hunger for the family, they will be encouraged to plant more crops and therefore increase national production,” he said.
EcoFarmer would allow farmers to pay insurance cover for as little as eight cents per day, which is deducted from their prepaid phone account during the agricultural season.
If rain does not fall, resulting in a drought, registered farmers would be given as much as US$100 for every 10 kilogrammes seed-pack planted.
Nyakanda said the system has a highly innovative weather monitoring network that can allow accurate recording and gathering of information on the exact amount of rainfall on the farmer’s field.
“This information is used by weather experts to tell if there has been a drought in the area. The innovative system designed by Econet is intended to give farmers, particularly small holder farmers, what is known as “weather-indexed insurance cover,” he said.
“Econet base stations in all farming areas would monitor weather patterns including rainfall, temperature and humidity, the information will be made available to farmers to assist them in managing their crops.”
Econet has also partnered with Seed Co to produce special seed packs that contain a small plastic container with a special number that the farmer must use to send messages and acquire information or advice about the seeds.
ZFU executive director Paul Zakariya welcomed the development as a way of reducing communication barriers between the farmers and relevant agricultural partners in disseminating necessary information needed to improve yields across the country.
“We developed EcoFarmer together with Econet Wireless and I believe it will make life easier for farmers in acquiring inputs and selling their produce,” he said.
“The product will create a trade platform for farmers and agricultural companies to share and exchange market related information as well as making payments through the same platform.”
The leading network service provider has chosen Mashonaland East province as the location for a pilot scheme, which will commence in November up to March 2014.
The system for weather measurement and monitoring has already been installed and the plastic capsules are being put into seed packs.

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