Juma Ngomuo explains the ‘Google for farmland’ in Tanzania
Tanzanian GODAN partner Agrinfo uses geodata to share farmland information and enable farmers to better manage their land. The organization does this, explains marketing director Jumo Ngomuo, by collecting the GPS locations of farms and assessing their ownership and area size, type of investment and expected outputs.
By collecting such data, the organization identified one of the challenges for farmers trying to lease land in rural areas: the process is done using just a piece of paper.
“It’s just a small agreement signed by two different parties with village leaders. But at the end, you can’t use this piece of paper as collateral to get a loan,” says Ngomuo.
“So as we collect this important information and store it, it will enable us to link these farmers or ‘agropreneurs’ with access to loans. It will also enable these agropreneurs to manage his or her land more effectively, especially when he or she wants to transfer, get a loan, or make more plans for land use.”
Ngomuo says the target market for Agrinfo is these agropreneurs, who are “young, graduates, really engaged in mechanized farming and in providing advisory services to farmers.”
Alongside farming co-operatives and financial institutions that are now able to link themselves to farmers, one of Agrinfo’s largest customers is the Government of Tanzania, who uses the organization’s data for land demarcation, identification and resource location.
Trouble with technology
Ngomuo says challenges exist for Tanzanian farmers to access and use available technologies, and they face problems such as poor Internet connections and electricity infrastructure. Many also experience difficulties in understanding SMS or online messages not sent in their local language.
“That’s why our focus is going to the new generation. The other farmers, they have these mobile phones but to use them… the infrastructure is not good,” he says.
Ngomuo says that since inception two years ago, Agrinfo has documented around 100 acres of mostly wooded farmland. One unique aspect of the organization’s business strategy revolves around the idea of the customer deciding if the data collected on his or her farm should be open or closed.
According to Ngomuo, “very few [farmers] want to be open, unless there is an opportunity.”
Ngomuo says it took a while to realize the nature of that opportunity for the farmers because while initially his organization set out to link them to financial institutions, only later did they find that farmers also need that piece of information for transfer of land or inheritance transactions.
The organization’s website also provides a directory. This contains contact information to link in extension services and input suppliers. “We want to put in a call centre, where they call in and we respond. Also, we want to put a market information page where different market information providers will provide a link to that,” says Ngumuo.
Click here for or further information on Agrinfo’s projects in Tanzania.