Hello Tractor: an Uber for the African field
Small agricultural plots grow most of the world’s food. It is a global situation, although, as this report by FAO shows, it is more pronounced in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, 80 percent of the food in these regions is produced by small farmers. These farms, which are mainly managed by women, are very valuable because they contribute to the diversification of the landscape and culture, but their economic viability is more than uncertain because their yields are practically those of subsistence farming. The lack of machinery is a key issue and the low income obtained ends up creating a vicious circle. What is the answer to this situation? Often it has been proposed that farms be grouped together in the form of cooperatives, but in recent times different solutions have emerged, inspired by formulas completely alien to the traditional agricultural field.
The magic of the digital economy and data in the field
One of the most remarkable is Hello Tractor: a start-up that has brought a distinctly urban model such as the platform economy to the rural environment. Led by Jehiel Oliver, the company uses a mobile application that allows tractor owners to get in touch with the people who need them, in the purest Uber style. Thus, anyone growing a plot, however small, can have a low-cost tractor. Furthermore, the machine is connected to the Internet and has a GPS locator, as well as sensors that report the status of the tractor and its fuel level.
The latter is not a minor detail, because the data collected by the application can be converted into knowledge… and into loans. In fact, by making a log of machinery use, people who cultivate their plots can submit data to banks to guarantee loans with which to acquire equipment and improve their farms. The companies that own the tractors also have guarantees to expand their business.
Serving farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa
The Hello Tractor project started in Nigeria in 2014 as a company selling small low-cost tractors and was relaunched in 2017 with the shared machinery. This is how it has grown and today it serves the farming community in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Amina Aliyu, a small producer, says that thanks to the application she “has managed to increase the area of cultivated land and harvest more, obtaining greater benefits”. Hello Tractor enables small farmers to plant on time, harvest at the right time and maximise their yields, which means that more people in Africa can go beyond mere subsistence.
A last important detail is that the Hello Tractor initiative is attractive enough to tempt young people to join the agricultural world.