The Togolese Government, which has been adopting digital technology to boost agricultural production, has announced the launch of interest-free loans to farmers across the West African nation.
Under the “YOLIM” digital interest-free loans programme, the Togolese Government, in partnership with banks and telecoms operators TogoCel and Moov Togo, is offering credit to small-holder farmers to purchase farming inputs such as seed, fertilisers, pesticides and inoculum, and to rent modern farm machinery such as tractors and discs through the TROTRO Tractor platform.
The YOLIM agricultural financing programme is complemented by the partnership between the Togolese Government and VAYA TROTRO that will allow Togolese farmers to hire farm equipment using a mobile phone application.
VAYA Technology Limited a Mauritius based company partnered with TROTRO Tractor Limited from Ghana to develop a “shared economy platform” for mechanisation. Through VAYA TROTRO platform, farmers will have access to services that include ploughing, discing, ripping, planting, boom-spraying, fertiliser spreading, trailer work and mechanized harvesting using their mobile phones.
The “YOLIM” programme means rains and sowing season in the local language) is set to enhance farmers’ digital and financial inclusion by granting them instant access to credit remotely, from a simple mobile phone using USSD technology. The loan, worth 96 000 CFA Francs (≈146 Euros), will be paid directly into the farmer’s mobile wallet in the form of an electronic voucher. The farmer, using the USSD code *824#, can immediately use YOLIM to purchase fertiliser, seeds, pesticides, and other inputs from partner stores.
The partnership between the Government of Togo and Trotro Tractor, known as VAYA Trotro in Togo, will give YOLIM beneficiaries the convenience to simply dial the USSD code *824# and use their YOLIM credit to rent tractors on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. So far, 57 483 farmers have already registered for the YOLIM programme to access loans amounting to 5.5 billion CFA Francs (≈8.4M Euros).
In a country where nearly 60% of the working population are farmers, the YOLIM farm loans programme and the Togolese Government’s public-private partnership (PPP) with VAYA TROTRO to boost agriculture through the use of convenient digital mobile technologies will likely attract interest across the continent.
Togo’s President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé has pledged to transform the agricultural sector by making it the second pillar of the country’s 2018-2022 National Development Plan.
“Since 2016, the Ministry of Digital Economy has supported the Ministry of Agriculture in various projects by employing digital tools aimed at helping farmers to improve their productivity and quality of produce for better yields and higher incomes.
By providing farmers with digital credit, the YOLIM programme is a decisive step in the integration of small-holder farmers into the national agricultural value chain. Our partnership with VAYA TROTRO embraces our strategy to introduce digital transformation across the agriculture value chain, increase equipment utilisation and provide transparency on the usage of equipment,” said Cina Lawson, the Minister of Posts, Digital Economy and Technological Innovation.
Minister of Agriculture, Animal Production and Fisheries, Noël Bataka, said access to credit had previously been a major obstacle for small-holder farmers. “Owing to the seasonality of their activities, these major players in the agricultural value chain require recurring cash flows to fulfil their financial needs.
Many of them need money for inputs, mechanisation and other things during the sowing season. However, their income is often insufficient to repay these loans due to the limited investment they can make with the limited resources they have.
“The YOLIM programme, therefore, provides a practical solution to this problem by providing them with an interest-free loan that is repayable only at harvest time. YOLIM thus intervenes to support the farming population to enable them to improve their yields and consequently their income through an efficient agricultural system in these tough times with COVID-19.
Our work with VAYA TROTRO is aimed at taking the hoe to the museum and increase productivity through mechanisation,” the Agriculture Minister said.
Speaking on the role of the VAYA TROTRO partnership, the Minister said in the digital era, it was critical for nations to adopt technologies that make life easier for their communities and ensure food security.
TROTRO Tractor Ltd Chief Executive Officer, Mr Kamal Yakub, said: “We are not going to be providing equipment but we are deploying technology that aggregates equipment from third parties to make sure that it is effectively and efficiently utilized.
VAYA TROTRO will transform agriculture not just in Togo, but the rest of Africa. We extend our gratitude to the Government of Togo for this opportunity to partner and drive food security, youth employment and economic growth.”
Africa has 60% of the world’s arable and fertile land and the demand for agricultural produce is expected to grow as the world’s population rises to close to 10 billion by year 2050.
VAYA Africa and TRORRO Tractor Limited have been working together in Zimbabwe where they launched VAYA Tractor with EcoFarmer and have tilled over 60000 hectares during the first season. VAYA Africa expects to roll out a similar model to its partnership with TROTRO across Africa, to boost agricultural productivity on the continent.