Zimbabwe: Blockchain to release farmers from financial burdens

Jamaican start-up FarmCredibly has an innovative solution to help smallholder farmers—many of whom do not have the collateral demanded by financial institutions to access loans—build a track record of their production that is proving better than collateral.

FarmCredibly creates a record for farmers based on their production and they do not even need to leave the work on their farms to create this, founder Varun Baker said, in a conversation with IPS.

Blockchain is a decentralised, digital ledger initially developed for the cryptocurrency bitcoin. It works through a series of digitally connected records where information can be shared openly and publicly verified through a cluster of computers.

The decentralised nature of blockchain means that information is not stored in one place but on many computers or databases. The information is also time stamped. As such, if information is changed it has to be done through the system and cannot be deleted or changed at one point without the other databases of the information also being updated.

Using the block chain technology, farmers can plan their production based on the actual market demand. Distributors in turn safely source produce from many farmers with a reliable track record, says Baker.

In 2018, FarmCredibly entered the AgriHack competition organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and they emerged winners. “Our strength is in technology and one big part that excites me about now and the future is the adoption of blockchain technology which can be a complicated subject for people,” Baker admits. “In our pitch, we simplified the value in using blockchain which is in enforcing the integrity in information.”

Working with farmers 10 years ago, Baker had encouraged them to use mobile applications for good record keeping and documenting their work on their farms. But in many cases farmers were reluctant to use any online or mobile device in the field.

Blockchain tech offers many opportunities for farmers
While blockchain technology offers many opportunities for farmers, there are various barriers and challenges for its wider adoption, researchers worry.

There is lack of expertise by smallholder farmers to invest in the blockchain by themselves, researcher say. Besides, there is a lack of awareness about the blockchain and training platforms are non-existent and there are regulation barriers too.

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