The Role of Technology in Overcoming Food Insecurity

Driving small-scale farm commercialisation

Ukanyo Farmer Development (UFD), a non-profit organisation helping to commercialise small-scale rural farmers, has partnered with The Awareness Company to introduce AgriTech into its programme. UFD currently supports over 2000 farmers in 5 districts in the Eastern Cape.

UFD mentors needed a user-friendly method to track their fieldwork and capture their activities undertaken to support the farmers in improving their yields on their commercialisation journeys. “Our relationship with The Awareness Company stemmed from the need to capture and visualise data collected by our mentors, to enable us to further strengthen the support we provide to farmers,” says Mbali Nwoko, CEO of UFD. “We needed a solution that could capture activities done on the ground, track everything and provide insights into locations, possible diseases and pests, annual growth in tons and members, land preparation and outcomes for investors.”

The Awareness Company, a data and analytics company that turns data into stories that enable fast, data-driven decision-making to drive business value, has developed a cloud-based software solution called HYDRA that ingests data from multiple sources and transforms it into intelligent data and insights. “UFD needed a tool to enhance their monitoring and management of the farmers they support, and this is where HYDRA comes in.”

Using HYDRA gives UFD the required tool to gain insights to plan future seasons based on the work done and recorded. “The use of this solution will improve the quality of work for the mentors allowing them to keep better track of the productivity of the farmers. We have already introduced the technology to the mentors and equipped them with the required knowledge of how to take the data and upload it for investors to better monitor the programme,” says Nwoko.  “In the long term, it will give a full overview of the programme, and possible growth points and it will highlight critical areas of performance by using the data captured on HYDRA over a certain period of time.”

Various datasets are being monitored and analysed using HYDRA. “These include land preparation to project results in terms of production, chemical dosage, and application dates and tracking of training and meetings. We can also track planting date and progress in real-time,” she says.

According to Priaash Ramadeen, CEO and co-founder of The Awareness Company, the relationship with UFD allows them to bridge the accessibility gap for smallholder farmers. “The smallholder farmer is traditionally an underserved market when it comes to technology. And this partnership with UFD aligns perfectly with our goal to bring HYDRA to everyone across the agricultural value chain.” That includes smallholder farmers, medium to larger farmers and organisation that assist these farmers like UFD. “UFD exists to help these farmers become more commercial and we are very excited that they will be using HYDRA to support them in their goal to create better farmers,” he says. 

HYDRA will enable UFD to monitor, manage and automate a lot of their reporting and the insights that are coming from the work being done on the ground. “It also helps them provide a lot of evidence as to the good work they’re doing in an audited record. “What we would like to see is projects like these expand to thousands of smallholder farmers because by gearing these farmers up with intelligence solutions, we are contributing to gearing them towards more commercial status, driving their future growth to improve food security,” says Ramadeen. “We have always believed that digitalisation is one of the best, if not the best, way to enable scale across any sector, including smallholder farmers.”