SAP has over time been known as a conventional software and technology company, and while it has been working across different sectors over time, agriculture is beginning to feature more preeminently in its areas of impact.
In recent years, SAP says it has worked with several smallholder farmer organizations and agribusinesses in Africa to develop and test a dedicated solution to connect smallholder farmers to agricultural value chains. This solution is called SAP Rural Sourcing Management, and it is designed to capture maintain and share individual data of smallholder farmers such as crop types, geographical location of fields, farm size, harvest prospects, farmers’ production sales transactions, and more.
Frédéric Massé, Africa Agriculture Industry Head at SAP Africa, noted that; it also connects smallholder farmers to information providers (training in best agricultural practices, weather data, market data, etc.) and facilitates access for smallholder farmers to various stakeholders in the broader agricultural value chain including financial services, buyers and suppliers of inputs (fertilizers, seeds, pesticides and agricultural equipment).
For governments, access to some of this data is also very important. It enables more effective and efficient public policy and intervention decision-making to ensure, for example, food security and safety, crop diversification and farmer financing at the local, regional and national levels.
SAP Rural Sourcing Management, sometimes in combination with other SAP commodity trading solutions. is currently being evaluated and implemented in several African countries as part of public private producers partnerships managed and financed by private companies.
The most recent example is CBI Innovations Ltd. (CBIiL), the for-profit arm of CBI Nigeria, who chose SAP Rural Sourcing Management to integrate 850,000 small maize producers into the agricultural value chains. CBIiL will be combining the use of SAP Rural Sourcing Management with the model of private extension services agents they have developed: the Community LIFE Agents (LIFE stands for Livelihoods Information Field Entrepreneurs).
Each LIFE agent supports 50 to 100 smallholder farmers. They are young unemployed graduates recruited from around the communities in which they will serve. They are trained by CBIiL and equipped with a dedicated Android device on which various applications specific to their missions are installed. They receive commissions on the products and services (inputs, telephone credit, banking, etc.) they sell to farmers and a premium based on the productivity growth of each farmer with whom they work.
A successful, thriving, highly productive African agricultural sector is possible. The transformation of the smallholder farming sector into a high-performance producer integrated into the global food value chains will not only grow local economies, ensure a more successful agri value chain, contribute to achieve self-sufficiency and safeguard food security, but will transform the lives of the 250 million smallholder farmers and their families whose livelihoods depend on their produce.