eVoucher agriculture solution successfully implemented in Zambia

Casper Strydom  | 4 January 2018

The eVoucher solution, put into action for Zambia’s Conservation Farming Unit (CFU), certainly ticks all the right boxes when it comes to making voucher payments to almost 3 000 farmers across 30 locations in the country.”

This is the viewpoint of Jimmy Muchimba, Mezzanine’s National Account & Business Development Manager for Vodacom Africonnect in Zambia.

 eVoucher had been developed by Mezzanine, a Vodacom research and development house which provides mobile technology to enhance the functionality and economic growth of companies doing business in Africa’s emerging markets. According to Muchimba, eVoucher is an Android-based, mobile-enabled electronic voucher solution that allows for secure voucher management between agribusiness and farmers. It takes advantage of readily available, reliable and scalable mobile phone services to deliver a comprehensive, yet intuitive and easy-to-use cashless payment management system.

As a cashless value distribution tool, beneficiaries get the benefits of a vouchering system without ever coming into contact with money, thereby ensuring that the benefits offered via the vouchers are used for their intended purposes. It also mitigates the risk of voucher fraud through improved traceability.

Where it started

Zambia’s Conservation Farming Unit (CFU) earlier in 2017 sent out a request for proposal (RFP) to supply electronic vouchering services for the 2017 agriculture season. The purpose of the contract was to enable the CFU to make subsidised electronic voucher payments to almost 3 000 pre-identified recipients spread across the country. The vouchers would be exchangeable for pre-determined farming input and redeemable through over 100 registered agents or agri-dealers.

More about the CFU

The CFU is an independent organisation registered in Zambia as a company limited by guarantee. With a focus on reversing the decades-old negative practices of conventional agriculture, it promotes conservation farming and climate-smart agriculture in the country.

The organisation’s aim is to improve farming methods so that farmers can reduce costs and labour inputs, eliminate unnecessary waste, and increase their yields. It also aims to give farmers access to the services and inputs that they require to convert to more efficient farming practices that protect their soils and the environments in which they live.

In order to achieve this, the CFU developed what they refer to as the Lead Farmer system. Through this system the CFU trains and empowers lead farmers to implement conservation farming, and to train other farmers in return. With almost 3 000 lead farmers already trained, the CFU is able to indirectly reach more than 200 000 farmers in Zambia annually.

The CFU required an eVoucher platform to be able to compensate the lead farmers for their services. This would also allow the organisation to promote the sales of farming inputs and equipment, that would drive business to Zambia’s agri dealers and to convert farmers trained in conservation farming, to the use of these farming inputs.

Funding of the project comes from the United Kingdom.

Successfully responding to the request for proposal

Vodacom Africonnect successfully responded to the CFU’s request for proposal and was able to go live with eVoucher by 15 September 2017, a mere four months after being awarded the contract, and successfully managed the programme until its conclusion at the end of December 2017.

“Implementing and launching eVoucher entailed much more than merely presenting a functional electronic solution,” says Muchimba. “To ensure full functionality, Vodacom Africonnect had to team up with Zanaco Bank, an approved financial services provider, to manage the financial and payment side of the vouchering system. We also had to obtain a telecommunications license and a legal agreement to access Zambia’s telecommunications network to provide the eVoucher service, set up the required IT capacity and support, prepare and train the agri dealers in using the eVoucher solution, and educate Zambia’s existing network of Android dealer shops on the service.”

With eVoucher implemented, lead farmers have the benefit of receiving vouchers on their mobile phones via SMS. Each voucher contains a unique code that is linked to the agri dealer responsible to supply specified input to the farmer. Agri dealers – having been provided with the required hardware, SIM (from any service provider), the eVoucher app, zero-rated data and training to effect the eVoucher redemption component – redeem the vouchers by capturing the unique codes. The system then generates payment instructions which prompt the financial service provider – in this case Zanaco Bank – to effect the payment to the agri dealer in real time, upon which the input is released to the farmer.

“And the best part is that eVoucher offers a cordless solution totally different and significantly more functional than the bank card related solution that the CFU had used before. The solution doesn’t require the bank to be upfront.”

– Jimmy Muchimba, Mezzanine’s National Account & Business Development Manager for Vodacom Africonnect in Zambia

With eVoucher the CFU can now accurately report to its funder on the funding utilised and exactly where the money had been spent.

The basis for success

“We certainly are proud of our agility and proficiency to offer to the CFU eVoucher with its superb functionality in such a short period of time,” says Muchimba. At the same time he points out that it wasn’t necessary to start from scratch. They were able to utilise Vodacom’s already existing and market-validated Connected Farmer cloud-based platform, which includes vouchering as one of its core functionalities, and to individualize this specific vouchering functionality according to the CFU’s requirements.

“Any solution that we offer in agriculture is part of Connected Farmer. We merely utilise specific components according to the need. In this case we just needed the eVoucher module.”

– says Muchimba

Muchimba is excited about the future. “We already did some heavy lifting in Zambia in the past to provide mobile solutions to the country’s agriculture industry. With eVoucher we again demonstrated that we can deliver when and where required, and that we are geared to handle even bigger projects in the future!”