OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

electronic Village Agent Model (e-VAM)

e-VAM is a model used by Akorion in Uganda to train youth to provide door step agricultural services to small holder farmers through ICT.

Photo of William
3 3

Written by

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

WHAT IS e-VAM? We train youth in agri-business skills to deliver door step services to small holder farmers like; agro inputs, zero tillage planting, shelling and market linkages by leveraging ICT and labor saving agro machinery. Akorion recruits, trains and support these youth as village agents (VAs) that collect farmers' data and map their land, deliver genuine agro inputs plus electronic extension information and find market for the farmers’ produce. Through the farmers' information in the ICT platform (EzyAgric) used by the village agents and Akorion, they are linked directly to service providers like; input suppliers and markets. Using the agro machinery the VAs provide production services thus youth employment and improving farmers’ yield by both the quantity and quality. WHAT PROBLEM DOES YOUR IDEA SOLVE? Ugandan youth (10 – 35 years old) make up 78% of the total population and a majority do not find it attractive to work in agriculture, a sector that employs over 66% of the working population majority being 52 years old. This is mainly because the value chain is labor intensive and the negative impact on the production levels of smallholder farmers. In addition, the youth currently working in agriculture find it to have unreliable income since the majority of them only provide agricultural produce bulking service for 2 to 4 months per year. The majority of youth have therefore resorted to lower income generating activities compared to agricultural potential.

WHO BENEFITS?

1) The youth who are aged between 18 - 35 years. Create more youth employment opportunities (~182 days p.a) and increase their income by almost 50% through different on and off farm services rendered in both the value and supply chain. 2) Small holder farmers having 1 - 5 acres. Increase the agricultural income of smallholder farmers by at least 30% through easier accessibility to genuine inputs, promoting good agronomical practices and access to diversified agricultural markets.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

Akorion Company LTD is a for profit business working with USAID, World Food Program, agro input suppliers and agro off takers. We work to promote youth employment and farmers' production and Marketing activities through door step service delivery and ICT tools in 42 districts of Uganda.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Uganda

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

Following the feedback session, the modifications below have been made to our idea; Our selection criteria of youth as village agents to include sampling of the farmers/ community members initially served by these youth. Repackaging of some agricultural inputs like fertilizer into small quantities since that what most of small holder farmers can afford to order from the village agents. That is to say, USD 26 worth of inputs is easily affordable by a farmer. Incorporate linkages to financial institution to enable the agents obtain credit and stock large quantities of inputs since farmers mostly pay for the inputs they see. Payment for services delivered by village agents to farmers to be done on a monthly basis other than weekly basis as before.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

The existing initiatives mainly focus on agricultural skills training, internship, mentorships and business development in the job opportunities fields with Agriculture inclusive and that’s the end. Akorion aims to take this to another level by not only engaging the youth in agricultural skills training and Business development but also going an extra mile of delivering agricultural production and marketing services to the target market with the village agents earning commissions for every service they render, creating sustainability. Akorion uses creative initiatives like use of Information and Communication Technology and agro mechanization to lure the youth into agriculture. In addition to this, Akorion uses its existing business connections in the agricultural supply chain to sustainably involve the youth in agricultural employment. For the past two years, Akorion has engaged over 42,000 smallholder farmers through 456 village agents who have been engaged in providing an average of two service earning 127 USD per month. With more engagement in 3 – 4 services the village agents will be able to make 400 USD and we believe this is a good income to attract more youth.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

Currently youth unemployment rate in Uganda is 83%, most of the youth have a mind set of job waiting without utilizing existing opportunities within their localities. In addition, other initiatives geared towards solving unemployment had put less effort in creating employment in the agriculture which is the core of Uganda’s economy employing 73% of the population. Agriculture is still one of the most youth unattractive employment sector in Uganda hence, contributing to high youth unemployment rates.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

How much credit can a financial institution lend to the youth to enable them stock large quantities of inputs or bulk large quantities of produce? Will the smallholder farmers easily adapt to all the new technologies being introduced? If not, how can manage this behavioral change? Will farmers easily opt for Akorion services with existing Government subsidizes and Non Governmental Organization’s free hand outs?

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

The company currently works with 456 youth village agents fully engaged in providing an average of two services to only 42,000 farmers in 42 districts. With Open IDEO engagement, Akorion will engage more 150 youth and an additional 22,500 farmers. Akorion will enhance its existing ICT platform to make it more robust and emphasize mechanized agriculture through the following activities; Procuring sample equipment to be used during the technical trainings and by 150 VAs in agricultural service provision. Train 150 VAs in agricultural services and provide ongoing technical and business skills support to the VAs in order to deliver quality services to the farmers. Mobilize at least 22,500 small holder farmers in maize, beans, and coffee to create demand for available services that include: financial services, crop insurance, soil testing, improved agricultural inputs, mechanized planting, spraying, and post-harvest handling services. Enhance and customize EzyAgric system to support the mobile point of sales and enable the village agents to access profiled information, and effect easy payment transactions for inputs and produce by the farmers.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

The team is as follows; William Luyinda the CEO, Jacob Kataana the head of Agent network, Esther Karwera the head of business development and strategic partners, Trust Birungi the head of service development, Moureen Anyipo the head of marketing and sales, Zilla Mary Arach the head of ICT product development and Sharon Nakiku the head of finance. This team has experience in implementing similar activities in partnership with the Government, private agricultural stakeholders, USAID and WFP.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Akorion Company Limited is a youth-led private business providing mobile door-to-door service delivery to enhance farmers’ production and marketing activities in the agricultural market ecosystem through the use of ICT tools and mechanization.

Working with Open IDEO and using Akorion’s passed experience of working with the youth using ICT, the partnership will in one year expand the existing VAs network with an additional 150 youth as VAs, of which 30% will be women, earning 4,800 USD annually through door to door agricultural service delivery to 22,500 small holder farmers in Uganda.

BACKGROUND

With the majority of smallholder farmers in Uganda being aged 65 years and above, there is a need to increase youth participation in the agriculture sector. Uganda also has a very large and growing youth population who lack economic opportunities, and can earn a living by providing production services such as planting, input sales, bulking/marketing, and post-harvest handling to these farmers.

Akorion has developed an innovative and unique ICT platform called EzyAgric, a software suite that supports a network of over 456 youth village agents equipped with smart phones across the country who create digital profiles of smallholder farmers and connect them to production support services. Currently, Akorion has profiled 26,000 farmers and is providing services to 42,000 farmers. With this expertise in technology and innovative service delivery, Akorion aims to bridge the gap of extension in the agricultural market ecosystem and reduce the ratio of extension workers to farmers from 1: 50,000 to 1:500 by engaging youth as village service providers (known as village agents, or VAs) who provide both on and off farm agribusiness services to farmers.

Akorion Company Limited has revolutionized agriculture by providing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools that make agricultural production more efficient and cost effective. Akorion has also led the way in promoting agro mechanization that reduces labor intensity and promotes better agricultural practices. Through the use of such technologies, Akorion demonstrates to youth that agriculture can be an exciting and profitable career, resulting in increased youth employment.

PROBLEM

Ugandan youth (10 – 35 years old) make up 78% of the total population and a majority do not find it attractive to work in agriculture, a sector that employs over 66% of the working population majority being 52 years old. This is mainly because the value chain is labor intensive and the negative impact on the production levels of smallholder farmers. In addition, the youth currently working in agriculture find it to have unreliable income since the majority of them only provide agricultural produce bulking service for 2 to 4 months per year. The majority of youth have therefore resorted to lower income generating activities compared to agricultural potential.

e-VAM SOLUTION

Akorion believes that the solution is to attract the youth to agriculture, by providing them with the income generating on and off farm activities, through ICT and labor saving technologies. The youth are recruited and trained as community based agricultural service provision agents (village agents - VAs). They are then equipped with the smart phones installed with different mobile software to periodically collect farmers’ biographical and production data. This information is then used by the VAs to provide appropriate door to door agricultural services to small holder farmers such as; genuine agro inputs delivery, soil testing, planting, and link them to competitive markets using labor saving agro machinery. In addition, this information is used to create a market driven eco-system that leverages mobile software to enhance efficiency and transparency in the provision of services to small holder farmers. This eco system brings together exporters, value addition processors, traders, agro input suppliers and financial institutions in the agricultural value and supply chain, connecting them to farmers.

With this intervention, VAs participate in the agricultural value and supply chain for 6 months/year resulting to 50% income increment due to the commission earned and increased economic activities involved for each agricultural production season. From Akorion’s experience, the youth like smartphones because they can use them for other social purposes like; social media, taking photos and video recordings. In addition, mechanization makes them efficient by saving their service time to farmers. A VA on average works efficiently with 200 farmers to become sustainable. Akorion currently has only 456 VAs and 42,000 small holder farmers but there is a need for the model to be extended to the rest of 19M farmers in Uganda.

USING e-VAM TO CONNECT FARMERS AND SERVICE PROVIDERS

In order to increase employment for youth in agriculture through service delivery, Akorion plans to target jobs at the most critical stages of the value chain, including input sales, planting, post-harvest handling, and marketing. As the VAs are providing the above mentioned services, they are collecting data about the production progress of the farmers using EzyAgric. With farmers’ consent, this information is shared with the various agriculture stakeholders (financial institutions, input suppliers, agro machinery providers, produce off takers, value addition processors, and exporters) through online accessibility. With ICT and door to door service delivery the farmers and agricultural stakeholders have benefits such as; cost effective supply chain monitoring and efficientt periodic demand and supply aggregation.

Image title
                                                           

                                                                Fig 1: e-VAM

From the e-VAM above, using the information from EzyAgric, exporters and value addition processors provide marketing services because they are assured of the quantity and quality to be supplied by the smallholder farmers, financial institutions, and crop insurance accelerate farmer’s stable income because they are closely monitoring the small holder farmers. Agro inputs and equipment suppliers can easily aggregate the demand of their products throughout the value chain. The VAs act as the entry and exit point to the smallholder farmers throughout the production season.

Potential services youths can be involved in as VAs at every stage of the Agricultural market eco-system include:

  • Production (inputs sales, planting services)
  • Post-Harvest (shelling, grain cleaning, drying)
  • Marketing (bulking)

How ICT tools are used by VAs to provide the above mentioned services:

Production and post-harvest phase

Using EzyCollect (a module of EzyAgric), the VA collects farmer’s records (biographical and demographic data, production data, inputs demand, and product supply) and maps the cultivated land using GPS. This data is used to connect the farmers to a financial institution. The same information is used to generates precise aggregated inputs demand along the value chain from the genuine input suppliers to ensure a cost effective and genuine supply. The farmers’ data collected will be updated seasonally by the VA for a continuous service delivery.

Using EzyCollect information, the VA through EzyExtension (a module of EzyAgric for extension) will be a point of sale for agro inputs from genuine suppliers and provide farmers with information on better agronomic practices and topics such as recommended input usage and handling, conservation tillage, weather forecasts, post-harvest handling, crop insurance.

Marketing

The EzyMarketplace (a module of EzyAgric) allows VAs to provide farmers with market information like market prices and diversified competitive markets at the same time updating the exporters and value addition processors of the production levels (appropriate quantity and quality) of the farmers.

e-VAM UNIQUENESS

e-VAM involves not only provision of agricultural information and linkages but also information dissemination to players in the agricultural market ecosystem and is complimented by data driven door to door timely and efficient service delivery up to the level smallholder farmers in a sustainable manner.

e-VAM SUSTAINABILITY

e-VAM is sustainable because it incentivizes farmers to access genuine inputs, production services, loans, crop insurance, and markets at a lower cost.

This in turn is an incentive for the village agents who earn income through commissions and service payments from the services rendered through out the agricultural value and supply chain.

In addition, Akorion has developed partnerships with the private sector entities (banks, input dealers, and insurance companies) whose major aim is to reach the smallholder farmers with the services and are therefore willing to pay for the service rendered by Akorion through EzyAgric.

e-VAM IMPACT

e-VAM creates more sustainable youth employment opportunities by attracting youths to careers in agriculture where they can achieve employment of 4 - 6 months per year as compared to bulking services for 2-4 months per year.

e-VAM also increases youth income by at least 50% due the increased economic activities of service delivery the VAs are providing in each production period of the value chain.

Increased household income of the small holder farmers by at least 30% through the use of genuine agro inputs, post harvest handling and quality markets.

Increase food security for smallholder farmers by at least 25% because of better agricultural practices and timely production.

PURPOSE OF OPEN IDEO FUNDS

Specifically, through the grant, Akorion will:

  • Procure sample equipment to be used during the technical trainings and by 150 VAs in service provision.
  • Train 150 VAs in digital profiling, soil testing, inputs sales, planting, spraying, digital financial services, shelling, and bulking and provide ongoing technical and business skills support to the VAs in order to deliver quality services to the farmers.
  • Mobilize at least 22,500 small holder farmers in maize, beans, and coffee to create demand for available services that include: financial services, crop insurance, soil testing, improved agricultural inputs, mechanized planting, spraying, and post-harvest handling services.
  • Enhance and customize EzyAgric system to support the mobile point of sales and enable the village agents to access profiled information, and effect easy payment transactions for inputs and produce by the farmers.

SHARE ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE THIS PROJECT TO HAVE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, AND ONE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER TO GET THERE.

We are looking at creating 4-6 months employment opportunities for 750 youth and increase their income by 50% through providing agricultural services to 150,000 small holder farmers and increase their income by 30%. How can we reduce the recruitment and training costs of the youth as village agents?

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 500 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • More than a year

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING AMPLIFY'S PORTFOLIO OF INNOVATORS?

We like to get connected to other ambitious innovators from all over the world so that we; Learn from this diverse knowledge and thought patterns to improve our innovations and have greater impact in my local community and that transcends borders. Would also like to learn from Amplify's mentors who shorten our learning curve to open doors and take our innovations to heights that are difficult to reach single-handedly.

3 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Chelsea Takamine
Team

Hi William and Team! Amplify and our experts have some comments and questions for you - we encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea.

-I like how youths are not only trained, but also employed to gain in-field experience.
-Designed with users in mind. They've already piloted this program over the last 2 years with 456 youth village agents. From their pilot they've identified specific areas for improvement like improving the selection criteria for youth agents and including linkages to financial institutions. Well done!
-I love the last-mile delivery focus of this idea. They've identified that most existing initiatives focus on training and education, but not many focus on engaging youths in the field. There is a gap in getting resources to the last-mile - which this idea is tackling.
-I'd like to learn how you can benefit from working with the Amplify team beyond scaling this program to involve more youth agents and farmers.

In case you missed it, OpenIDEO and Amplify hosted a Storytelling Office Hour - https://youtu.be/g0gZRR6T9tA. Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and help make it come to life! Don't forget - December 18th is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of William
Team

electronic Village Agent Model (e-VAM) 
Thanks Chelsea for the compliment.
About your inquiry, in addition, to scaling up our idea working with amplify team helps us to;
1) Understand and use tools of human centered design so as to build services and products which resonate with the intended audience.
2) Understand and package our idea in a better way.
3) Tell our story in a better way.

View all comments