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Econet launches eco-farmer for Zimbabwe's smallholder farmers

Econet Wireless has developed a weather-indexed drought insurance service enabling smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe to buy insurance for as little as US$0.08 per day

The programme for growers known as EcoFarmer means the insurance farmers purchase will be deducted from their prepaid phone account during the agricultural season, according to Ranga Mberi, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe corporate communications manager.

"The service allows farmers to make a financial claim if their crops fail because of either inadequate or excessive rainfall,” Mberi said.

The telecommunications provider has chosen Mashonaland East province as the location for the insurance cover pilot scheme, which will last between November this year and March 2014.

According to Mberi, if drought does occur farmers will be given as much as US$100 for every 10kg seed pack planted, adding that the key to the system is a highly innovative weather monitoring network, which enables Econet to know exactly how much rain fell on the farmer's field.

Econet has also partnered with Seed Co to produce special seed packs that contain a small plastic container with a number which farmers can send a SMS to.

The Econet base station in the farmer's area monitors weather patterns including rainfall, temperature and humidity, which is used by weather experts to tell if there has been a drought in the area.

The system being built by Econet is intended to give farmers, particularly small holder farmers, what is known as "weather-indexed insurance cover".

Based on the results of the pilot scheme, Econet will then expand it nationally, in time for next year's planting season, the company revealed.

Wallace Mawire