What is Farmbook?
Farmbook is a field-based business application that was built and tested at the request of a consortium of NGOs working in the Southern African Agro-Enterprise Learning Alliance. The purpose of the application is to enable field agents to help farmers plan their farm businesses more effectively and evaluate their productivity and profitability. The system was also developed as a means of training field agents to be better business advisors and also find a way for remote field agents to share data with project managers.
Business focused information
For most farmers and many agricultural field agents business development is a challenge. Most smallholder farmers do not keep records. Most field agents have not received any formal education in business management and therefore rarely help farmers to plan their enterprises. Their focus therefore remains mainly on productivity enhancement. However, for development processes and upgrading strategies to work successfully in a business environment, more attention needs to be given to monitoring the profits that different types of farmers gain from using technologies and linking to markets. Farmbook is a tool that provides farmers with access to a business planning process that is focused on their product and market opportunity. For farmers it provides customized business information, rather than general market information. We are working with a number of partners to test and use Farmbook, it is made available under a not cost license to users.
Farmbook in the Field
Farmbook was tested as it was being built, by teams of field agents and their supervisors in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar from May 2010 – November 2012. Since its launch in May 2012, up to 1st May 2013, Farmbook has 160 test users. The production side of Farmbook went live on 1st August and now has 70 users. Whilst, CRS has trained users in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Tanzania and Serbia, the first data is being entered by field agents in the four test countries. These countries have developed plans to register farmers in key projects and then for each agent to complete 5 business plans in the first season which started in November 2012. This business season will run to June-July 2013.
There are 994 farmers now logged into the system from 55 famer groups. There are currently 24 business plans in progress, with farmers are working on a range of crops including soybean, maize, beans, chillies and cucumber. We will provide training Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Bangladesh, this year, with a view to scale the process and support an increasing number of data points.