Heifer International and Hello Tractor have launched pay-as-you-go tractor financing for Nigerian farmers who find it impossible to get credit through normal channels.
The two organisations inaugurated the initiative on Thursday, in Abuja with a pledge to generate agribusiness opportunities for young Nigerian entrepreneurs.
Heifer is an international development organisation working to end hunger and poverty globally in a sustainable way by supporting and investing alongside local farmers and their communities.
While Hello Tractor, on its part, is a tractor contracting platform connecting farmers to tractor owners through an IoT-enabled software application.
Founder of Hello Tractor, Jehiel Oliver, said that it would be investing one million dollars in the tractor booking platform.
Oliver said that the programme would provide loans for tractor purchases that could be repaid from revenues earned by leasing them to local farmers.
“We developed the PAYG programme to make tractor ownership and the reliable income these machines can bring a reality for entrepreneurs who find it impossible to get credit through normal channels.
“We look at the revenue tractor owners can generate, not how much collateral they can pledge.
“Partnering with Heifer International enables us to extend innovative financing to people who were previously considered ‘unbankable’.
“While increasing access to technology that has the potential to improve the incomes of millions of smallholder farmers across Africa,” Oliver said.
Mrs Adesuwa Ifedi, the Senior Vice President, Africa, at Heifer International, said that pay-as-you-go tractor financing for increased agricultural productivity had enabled tractor purchases in Nasarawa and the Enugu States as well as FCT.
According to her, these purchases could make tractors accessible to thousands of smallholder farmers via the increasingly popular Hello Tractor leasing platform.
“Sometimes referred to as Uber for tractors, Hello Tractor offers software and tracking devices that allow farmers to book tractor services from local tractor owners via a mobile phone app.
“The pay-as-you-go model provides financing for entrepreneurs who want to create jobs by capitalising on the demand for tractor services on African farms, but who lack traditional forms of collateral.
“It’s a way to unlock capital for youths who have strong business skills that can help transform African agriculture but are often overlooked by private equity investors,” Ifedi said.
She said that in sub-Saharan Africa, there were only about 27 tractors per 100 square kilometres of agricultural lands compared to roughly 200 tractors global average.
According to her, this mechanisation deficit has a significant impact on farm productivity and local economies in a region where most people depend on smallholder farming for income.
“Hello, Tractor is one of many new agritech start-ups emerging across the continent that are finding business opportunities in addressing this and other farming challenges.
“However, while private equity groups and large impact investors have provided more than five billion dollars for tech startups in Africa, very little of that financing has gone to young agritech entrepreneurs,” she said.
Ifedi said that Heifer International was stepping into the breach to demonstrate the potential of agritech investments to generate jobs for the 10 and 12 million young people in Africa.
She said that in 2021, Heifer International created the AYuTe Africa Challenge, which awarded cash grants annually to the most promising young agritech innovators across Africa.
“It also supports Heifer’s goal of helping more than six million African farmers earn a sustainable living income by 2030.
“The inaugural AYuTe Africa Challenge awarded a total of 1.5 million dollars to two companies, one of which was Hello Tractor.
“The award allowed Hello Tractor to finance 17 tractors for 17 entrepreneurs in three countries.
“Heifer’s new investments announced today for the company’s PAYG product will give more entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers access to tractor services at an affordable rate.
“Also, that in turn can boost farm productivity, employment, food security and farmer`s livelihoods,’’ she said.
Mr Abdullahi Abubakar, Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, who represented the Minister, Dr Mohammed Abubakar, said that the initiative by the two organisations would improve productivity.
Abubakar said that the innovative pay-as-you-go scheme aimed at increasing smallholder farmers` access to tractors through farm equipment hiring applications would bridge the gap between traditional farmers for more technologically advanced approaches.
He said that implementation of the scheme would strengthen and improve farmers’ productivity with efficient and timely utilisation as well as supplement the ministry`s subsidy programme.
He lauded Heifer International and Hello Tractors for their effort in ensuring the implementation of the programme.
Mr Nicolas Chukwu, Tractor Operator in Abuja and Nasarawa State, who spoke on behalf of the beneficiaries, said that the tractors had really impacted the lives of farmers in the areas.
Chukwu thanked the two organisations for providing the tractors, adding that the effort had made the work easier and faster for both the farmers and the tractor operators.
“The Heifer and Hello Tractors have really changed our story for good; they are the ones that have brought the real change we have been waiting for.
“We don’t disappoint our farmers again, because we have our own tractors. Before we rent from people and sometimes we counter delays on the side of the tractor owners because the tractors are few.
“But now we have our own we can attend to our farmers anytime they need our service”.