Here is an interesting fact about internet usage among farmers in Nigeria:
“The International Telecommunications Union’s ‘Measuring Digital Development Facts and Figures 2022 report showed that only 23% of Nigerians and other Africans in rural areas used the internet in 2022, compared to 64 percent of urban counterparts.”
A number of Agritech solutions can be found in mobile applications, websites, etc. However, these solutions cannot serve a high percentage of smallholder farmers living in rural areas because they barely have access to the power supply and internet connections. This creates a need for scalable and accessible solutions that are capable of solving these challenges.
“In the National Development Plan 2021 – 2025, the Federal Government of Nigeria revealed that about 301 local government areas in the country lack access to the Internet. With epileptic power supply, high rate of internet subscription and inflation in Nigeria, there is a need to create innovative solutions. These solutions should be accessible to small-holder farmers who account for 80% of farmers in Nigeria and 98% of the food produced in Nigeria.”
At Crop2Cash we set out to solve this problem by reaching farmers where they are. We were able to successfully do this through the use of USSD Technology.
What is USSD Technology?
USSD or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, is a technology that allows users to interact with a service provider's system through a simple menu-based interface on their mobile phones, without the need for internet access or a smartphone.
In rural Nigeria, where internet connectivity and smartphone penetration are low, USSD technology can be used to deliver services such as banking, health, education, and agriculture. For example, farmers can use USSD codes to access information about the best weather practices, proper crop storage, farm inputs and other crop prices, and farming techniques. Health workers can use USSD codes to access patient information and health resources.
How USSD works
Typically, USSD involves a query from a mobile phone user, such as a request for a bank account balance. Once the user sends the request, the USSD gateway forwards it to the user's USSD application, which responds to the request.
The process is then repeated in reverse, i.e., the response goes back to the USSD gateway, which displays the content of that response on the screen of the user's mobile phone. Generally, the responses, which contain a maximum of 182 alphanumeric characters, are sent in a format that's easy to display. The user sends and receives data by dialling a specific short code -- usually a set of numbers that begins with an asterisk (*) and ends with a “#”.
USSD applications run on the network, not on a user's device. As such, they don't have to be installed on the user's phone. USSD apps are instantly available to every subscriber the moment they're deployed to a network.
Leveraging USSD Technology
To overcome the challenges faced by smallholder farmers living in rural Nigeria, Crop2Cash has leveraged USSD technology as a platform on which premium services can be built. The USSD interface is designed to be simple and easy to use, with menu options and prompts that guide farmers through the process of using the platform's services.
At Crop2Cash we have taken the responsibility to promote the prosperity of smallholder farmers by using USSD technology to give them access to the following services:
Beta Farmer Package: Using USSD technology we have built The Beta Farmer package, which is a 6-month subscription plan that gives farmers access to a “Beta Life” by providing the following:
Discounts on farm inputs
Warehouse storage service,
We have built an Inclusive Marketplace, where farmers can purchase the highest quality farm inputs and machinery at incredibly affordable prices.
Multi-language support in Hausa and English Language. We are always available from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays to answer any questions, or concerns about our products/services. Our Farmers can always reach our customer support agents by placing a direct call to 0903000989. Registered farmers can request a call by dialling *347*46*7#.
In conclusion, USSD technology is a useful tool in making resources available to hard-to-reach smallholder farmers in rural areas. As more smallholder farmers in Nigeria gain access to USSD technology, our vision to transform the agriculture sector gets closer. We believe an effective combination of user-friendly interface and essential services will bridge the digital divide and empower smallholder farmers prosperously in Nigeria.