The Managing Director of Fortis Mobile Money Limited, Mr. Samuel Oladimeji, said the company has designed a unique method of funding agriculture.
According to him, DiFRAD is an acronym that means Digital Finance for Rural Agricultural Development. It is a product developed for smallholder farmers especially ones in the rural and peri-urban communities in the North Central, North East and The North West.
His words: “This is digital agricultural initiative. The product was inspired by a first-hand encounter with some farming communities in Niger state and Cross River during some of our Cash Transfer Programs.
We discovered that most of our beneficiaries are actually farmers who are constrained by lack of financial services and sometimes know-how.
We immediately started toying with the idea of filling their gap by bringing the banks to them and linking them with agricultural developers.
“To achieve this, we had to partner with micro finance banks, agricultural developers and insurance companies as we worked on a suite of products that will cater for the extensive needs of the farmers.”
He regretted that it has been really difficult for the Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) to craft a value proposition that will address the real needs of their target market even though that target markets might differ across MMOs.
He said: “We at Fortis Mobile Money have always believed in going the whole nine yards. We believe it should be done the right way. We have refused to take the short cut to immediate but fleeting profit.
Of course we know that we can choose to drive value through bill payments and wallet-to-bank transfers but then any sort of aggressive marketing of e-channels by the commercial banks would leave MMOs scrambling for market share in an already saturated market.
Speaking further, he added that “what we have done is tailored to the needs of the BOP customers. These products include Mobile Microfinance, Cash Transfer Package and recently DiFRAD”.
Oladimeji believes the product is unique because it focuses on the value chain instead of isolated financing. Hear him: “We in partnership with the microfinance banks and insurance companies finance the entire value chain starting from provision of farm land through its clearing to its harvesting, processing and selling.
It is our passion to end the marginalization of small holder farmers by buyers and even nature by providing knowledge and guidance as they journey through the digital finance value chain.
Our package even extends to the provision of inputs and we have consulted critical expertise to look at the proposition and ensure that we achieve the desired impact.
This is why the whole process is mostly digital and going digital guarantees a level of transparency.
“At Fortis Money, we see ourselves as a socially responsible organization and DiFRAD to us is part of the ways we give back to the community.
The overarching goal is to reduce the poverty level in rural communities seeing that their most recurrent occupation is farming.
EFINA 2016 reports opined that financial exclusion level has grown in the rural areas. We see these rural areas as predominantly farmers.
Small holder farmers are actually the providers of about 85% of the locally produced food in the circulation in the markets,” he stated.
The CEO has a word for President Buhari administration. He said “we have witnessed demonstrated resolve of the government to properly incentivize agriculture.
READ MORE: Smallholder Farmers Key To Food Security
While the government faces challenges especially with regards to reaching the (BOP), small holder farmers, I believe that the solution is Public Private Partnership.
The privately owned organizations with the right organization and the right process have the opportunity to bridge the gap between the government and the rural farmers.
At Fortis Money, we are fully investing in that proposition. We are focused on providing a platform that will enable the government, NGOs and the financial institutions reach the small holder farmer,” he added.