In Côte d’Ivoire, ICT4DEV, the best Ivorian start-up at Pitch AgriHack 2017, has developed mobile applications to meet the needs of local farmers.
Jean Delmas Ehui and Sausthène Guy Ehui have always lived close to the land. As children, they spent most of their holidays with their grandparents who were farmers. They helped in the fields and took part in the harvest. Having become a computer engineer and an agricultural engineer respectively, they share the same observation: over the years, the problems of Ivorian farmers have remained the same.
And so in 2014 they founded ICT4DEV, a start-up grouping together a ‘package of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions’ to promote the work of Ivorian farmers, to bring them closer to their customers, and to enable them to develop a better understanding of the market, of harvest cycles and climate change.
Their flagship project is Lôr Bouôr (‘productive field’ in the Lobi language), a platform that brings together a set of services, ‘tested, used and acclaimed’ by farmers. ‘Our objective is to find specific ICT solutions to the problems of Ivorian, and later African farmers in general,’ says Sausthène Guy Ehui.
More than 15,000 farmers on the platform
The group’s first innovation is the Gelico application, which provides online management of cooperatives. It enables the registration of members, the identification of plots per member and the management of production. More than 15,000 farmers and over 100 cooperatives are listed on the application in Côte d’Ivoire.
Another of the start-up’s products is the Djori Djori SMS application (‘how much, how much’ in the Malinké language): this is an information system for agricultural markets, price information and product trends on urban and rural markets. The start-up, which is present in six regions of Côte d’Ivoire, has recruited and trained coordinators, who criss-cross the markets three times a week in order to collect prices, which are immediately made available on the database.
‘We forward these prices by SMS to the farmers, so that they know how much these products cost, and to allow them to negotiate sales with all the available information at hand,’ says Sausthène Guy Ehui. ‘We then felt it was important to train the farmers, by launching Agri Conseil, an SMS and voice message system in the local language.’ The aim is to help farmers understand climate phenomena, to teach them water management, types of fertilisers to use, etc.
To do so, the start-up works closely with research institutes, agricultural schools, the Côte d’Ivoire Chamber of Commerce… Every week, five messages are sent to some 5,000 farmers in their database via partner mobile phone operator MTN.
With a current estimated capital of 27 million CFA francs, the company employs about 20 people. ‘We’re not making much money yet. We have small margins on the SMSs. The bulk of our funding comes from the competitions we win,’ adds Sausthène.
‘The CTA has helped a lot’
ICT4DEV was named the best Ivorian start-up at Pitch AgriHack 2017, an initiative of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA). Their €2,000 prize money has helped to cover some of their expenses.
‘Above all, there was the
training and documentation that came with this award. To tell you the truth,
they really helped and continue to help us. We may already have been a
well-known start-up, but we needed a better understanding of the environment, a
better grasp of farmers’ problems, of the types of solution that are effective
and the business plans to be adapted. The CTA has really helped with these
issues,’ the co-founder admits. It’s the springboard he needs to see through
his dream of establishing the Ivorian model of ICT4DEV in other African