Small-scale farmers in Myanmar have to rely on the middlemen in the value chain to sell their products, as a consequence, they have low bargain power to discuss prices.
The TFF Challenge Boost Team AgriMatch has created a mobile phone application that optimises food production and lessens social inequality in agriculture. Their online platform ensures that small-scale farmers have equal access to a broad network of middlemen, brokers and buyers in the ag-value chain, enabling them to share information on product availability, prices, quantity, and quality before meeting physically. Access to several buyers can help farmers navigate in fair pricing, hence downscaling price exploitation while reducing post-harvest losses.
In the interview, the team member Ingrid from Denmark shares how they can help optimise the agri-value chain with transparency.
Can you tell us a bit more about AgriMatch?
AgriMatch was founded at the Telenor Youth Forum where we pitched our idea to Telenor Group and experts from Plan International, UNICEF and the Nobel Peace Centre and went home as the 2018-19 winners.
Our mobile app empowers small-scale farmers socially and economically, providing connectivity and ensuring equal access to the value chain.
AgriMatch is based on geolocation. When farmers log in, they are able to choose from several nearby middlemen, buyers or brokers in the area. With the app, farmers can negotiate a better price and gain access to a wider choice of buyers. It also helps farmers connect with each other and team up to sell their crops or produce collectively to a middleman or buyer, thus enhancing their bargaining power and strengthening rural communities. With an integrated rating system after dealing, AgriMatch aims to make transactions between middlemen and farmers fair and transparent.
Small-scale farmers are crucial actors in reducing food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger, yet they are often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the ag-value chain. One major factor causing this is that farmers often have very limited options to sell, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation and small scale corruption
AgriMatch is centred around the middleman—can you explain why?
Our solution attempts to embrace the cultural framework where middlemen are an integral part of the value chain—usually, middlemen are cut out in an effort to make supply chains more direct. We’re trying to create equal opportunity to networks and access to different buyers in the area.
When farmers log on the AgriMatch platform, they can plot in the types of crops or produce they want to sell, while providing information like pricing, quality, quantity and photos. When buyers log on, they can find farmers that are ready to sell, and they’ll be able to connect to them directly. By this, instant connectivity can prevent post-harvest loss that occurs due to the lack of instant access to networks.
What impact can AgriMatch have?
Middlemen and brokers will benefit from farmers selling collectively, as it can save them time and transportation costs by letting them buy more crops or produce in one go, and they can easily expand their network of customers. If farmers and middlemen use the app, we can reduce post-harvest losses, cut small-scale corruption, and reinforce trustworthiness.
We are hoping to strengthen the whole value chain and open up opportunities for equity for people in rural areas. AgriMatch can empower small-scale farmers by simply connecting them.
With AgriMatch, we also envision a supply chain that is more inclusive to female farmers, religious, racial and ethnic minorities, as it is possible for farmers and buyers to withhold background information and sell or buy on equal terms – something that can be relevant in regions where particular social or cultural factors might be seen as reasons to exclude certain groups.
Can you share a bit more about yourself and your team?
We are four teammates, working from different regions with different backgrounds. Rachel is a psychologist from Malaysia, Sameen a business administrator from Bangladesh, Emilie is an engineer from Norway, and me, Ingrid, I’m from Denmark and recently finished a bachelor in social anthropology.
Our different backgrounds and nationalities have been a huge strength since the beginning. We tend to complement each other, and our interdisciplinarity brings forth different perspectives and helps us stay critical of what we do. All of us have already experienced working closely in the ag-food field, and share the passion of making a solution that can impact the agricultural value chains in a sustainable manner.
Why did you choose to launch in Myanmar—and could AgriMatch expand into other areas?
Myanmar has great potential to benefit from digital agricultural solutions. With a high smartphone penetration and 70 per cent of Myanmar’s people living in rural areas, we believe the app could be crucial in empowering farmers.
There are many other countries and markets where AgriMatch could be a good fit, because the middleman-farmer relationship is very common, especially in countries in the Global South. We are exploring opportunities to introduce AgriMatch in Kenya and Thailand, but first, we will ensure that it is implemented well in Myanmar and has a sustainable impact on the agricultural stakeholders there.
Did you connect with the local communities in Myanmar?
Last year, I went to Myanmar on behalf of the team for four months, while we worked on the conceptual side of AgriMatch. It was important for us to base the app and its features on a needs assessment conducted in the field. Meeting farmers, buyers and middlemen while connecting with experts and potential partners was an important step in doing that by better understanding the context. According to the FAO, more than 70 per cent of the people in Myanmar rely on agriculture as their primary source of income, it is great for us to learn and test our app in a country where it could have enormous potential.
How can TFF support you on your journey?
We are very excited to be part of TFF this year. TFF’s global network can help us find local and global partnerships and build a network that connects us with the next opportunities for AgriMatch. We are expecting that we will find a lot of inspiration from other teams that have been selected in the TFF Challenge and aspire to create a better world.
We will continue sharing about AgriMatch’s journey here—make sure to check our Content Hub regularly.
AgriMatch and the other Finalist and Boost Teams are currently taking part in the virtual TFF Academy 2020, which is an open-sourced acceleration program anyone can join. Just sign up to the Digital Labs and make sure to request to join the TFF Community Facebook group here where we will keep an active feed for peer-to-peer discussions and relevant conversations!