Last week EcoFarmer Vaya Tractor said it planned to till over one million hectares of land for smallholder farmers in this year alone.
In a country like Zimbabwe where the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that over 70% of farmers are smallholder farmers, the impact of the pooling resources to work the land could have a far-reaching impact on agricultural output and longterm food security for the nation.
Cassava CEO Eddie Chibi said EcoFarmer was engaging the Government and farmers to help with this season’s ploughing.
“We have the capacity to do at least one million hectares as long as support is provided for financing the farmers, as well as ensuring there is enough diesel for the tractor owners,” Chibi said.
He said Vaya Tractor already had 3 000 tractors on its platform and over one million smallholder farmers registered with its EcoFarmer network.
The announcement came a week after a Cabinet Minister, officiating at the launch of the service, acknowledged that the country had a huge deficit of agricultural mechanisation equipment.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perence Shiri said: “We have a deficit of 33 000 tractors, 10 000 planters and 500 combine harvesters and the introduction of Vaya Tractor)therefore complements our efforts and will help ensure there is efficient utilization of available resources and a boost in productivity.”
The idea of a technology platform that enables farmers to easily access and share a pool of tractors is expected to go a very long way in reducing the current deficit of tractors and boosting farm productivity.
Productivity in agriculture and national food security will ensure that the foreign currency used to import food is saved and allocated elsewhere, with the possibility of generating additional forex if there are surplus yields.
Mr Chibi said the Vaya tractor platform works in the same way as the Vaya carpool service and a farmer can request a tractor in much the same way as someone makes a request for a Vaya carpool ride (which gives a ride to several people).
“If there are a number of farmers in an area, we send a tractor,” Mr Chibi said. With 3 000 tractors already on the Vaya Tractor platform, one tractor hired by 11 smallholder farmers during the ploughing season would, at least in theory, wipe off the current 33 000 tractor deficit.
The service will result in significant savings for farmers, while rewarding and creating additional income to tractor owners whose tractors are not fully utilised during the ploughing seasons.
The Vaya Carpool, Uber, BnB and similar platform-based business models thrive on providing reach and access to millions of people.
The model entails the use of existing assets in the hands of many owners, allowing them to significantly push down startup costs, and leverage scale to make it worthwhile for all the players in the value chain.
This is known as the shared economy, and it suits emerging markets such as Zimbabwe by virtue of the very low capital start-up costs.
EcoFarmer Vaya Tractor, Zimbabwe smallholder farmers and tractor owners could all be set to benefit if they adopt this win-win approach to farming in Zimbabwe.