ROLLING MEADOWS, Illinois — Farmers make up more than 35% of the workforce in Nigeria. Additionally, farming accounts for more than 20% of Nigeria’s annual GDP. These farmers work endlessly to produce crops such as palm oil, cocoa beans, maize, sorghum, nuts, rice and soybeans for many countries. As such, an agricultural tech startup called Thrive Agric is helping Nigerian smallholder farmers increase crop supply and meet quality standards for markets.
Smallholder Farming In Nigeria
Those especially affected by the crop demand in Nigeria are smallholder farmers, or farmers with less than five acres of land. Smallholders comprise 88% of all Nigerian farmers. Due to their small land space, they do not produce as many crops as competitors. Consequently, nearly 72% of Nigerian smallholder farmers live on less than $1.90 per day. Most live well below the poverty line.
Recently, the agricultural industry in Nigeria declined due to underinvestment in the industry. This was because crude oil was a larger portion of Nigeria’s economy and thus supplied more income than agriculture. The neglect of the agriculture industry led to low use of mechanical equipment, poor agricultural systems, poor road networks to transport produce and lack of access to quality fertilizer and seed.
Smallholder farmers especially in rural areas face many different obstacles. Mainly, they deal with inadequate agricultural incentives to continue farming and a lack of feasible initiatives to improve rural agricultural infrastructure.
Further, the cost and effort of production are more than the farmers’ profit. Due to a lack of technology, Nigerian smallholder farmers can only irrigate 2% of their lands. This leads to a reliance on rain for water crops. This affects produce output and the availability of food and grazing lands for livestock. Beyond this, only 16% of these farmers have access to mechanized equipment. Additionally, smallholder farmers cannot produce as many crops as they would like because the cost of seeds and fertilizer can cost nearly 20% of the value of production.
Thrive Agric’s History
Founded in 2017, Thrive Agric’s goal is to help smallholder farmers gain access to products and services that farmers don’t typically have access to. They distribute products and services in rural areas and partner with other agricultural organizations to expand their reach. As a result of their efforts, more than 140,000 smallholder farmers in Nigeria have increased their abilities to meet supply. They have also improved quality and food safety in order to sell in more local and international markets.
Thrive Agric also helps smallholder farmers gain access to technology, which helps them gain a higher income. The startup created an app called Tradr, which helps smallholder farmers in Nigeria to gain access to seed, feedstuff, fertilizer and machinery providers. It also helps find local buyers for their products.
Additionally, the startup created another app called Tmoni, which provides smallholder farmers the ability to borrow, save, send and receive money through a digital wallet.
USAID and Thrive Agric’s Collaboration
To further help smallholder farmers, USAID awarded a $1.75 million grant to Thrive Agric through its West Africa Trade & Investment Hub project. Thrive Agric is aiming to raise $10 million in total. This will help approximately 50,000 Nigerian smallholder farmers in the process of growing rice, maize and soybeans.
Thrive Agric especially aims to help women and young farmers residing in the northern parts of Nigeria. The Boko Haram insurgency has left Northern Nigeria devastated, with many in the region struggling.
If the project succeeds in its goals, smallholder farmers will produce an astounding 50,000 metric tons of rice, maize and soybeans by the end of 2021. Through this project, smallholder farmers who typically do not have a sustainable income will receive yearly incomes higher than normal. This is because Thrive Agric is helping farmers sell to more premium markets. The smallholder farmers participating in Thrive Agric’s project will gain access to:
Soil and crop production consulting services.
Pre-and post-harvest storage and logistics support.
Links to credit and agriculture insurance products that cover losses if any production problems occur.
Access to the company’s current and future mobile apps that generally make the process of growing and selling crops easier.
Further, Thrive Agric’s project will create an additional 1,000 jobs in other areas of the agricultural industry. These roles could include farm, field or warehouse managers. Thrive Agric aims to hire women for at least 70% of these jobs.
While Nigerian smallholder farmers are struggling, agritech startups like Thrive Agric have been addressing their problems through modern technology. They have helped thousands since they have started their venture. Thrive Agric will continue to help more smallholder farmers, which will hopefully lift many Nigerians out of poverty.
– Matthew Port Louis