Since the beginning of the year 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way of life in most of countries of the world; games and entertainment abandoned, streets deserted and businesses either paused or completely grounded. The greatest lesson we learnt is that businesses with less physical contact with people (internet activities) are the safest during pandemics. One particular sector that has immensely benefited from this is the agricultural sector in form of E-farming. In E-farming, agricultural services and products are rendered to people through online platforms. Fortunately, this was also the motivation behind our idea of Mobile Plant Clinic (MPC) i.e to train, consult and give out information to farmers without necessarily having physical contact with them.
Since we started, and with the support of IUPAC Next Generation program, we have created a website (www.thempcnetwork.com), formed a team and have working with a group of farmers who are enthusiastic about our service. Among this group are farmers cultivating yam, vegetables, maize and rice. Our target is to have 40 active farmers on our platform in the first year that will then introduce and invite two members each among their colleagues to subscribe to the platform. However, the government total lockdown arising from COVID-19 pandemic restricted movement and made most of the farmers to stay away from the farm which also reduced their participation on our platform. Presently, the lockdown is been gradually lifted and farmers are returning to farm. We also hope there will be more activities in the coming weeks because apart from the ease of lockdown, agricultural activities usually pick up when rain begins and we are eagerly waiting for this great opportunity especially in the area of helping the farmers with pest management.
Also, we have continued to create awareness about the website through blogposts and opportunities on the website. Presently, less than 20 people are visiting the website daily and our focus is to increase the number to over 1000 per month by December, 2020.
As a result of many reported cases of internet fraud, prospective customers are always careful with dealing with online platforms that are not legally registered. This has been our major challenge. However, with our business registration already in process, this challenge will be overcome soon. We also hope we will be able to have more collaboration with other partners and government institutions after the registration.
Generally, the COVID-19 caused a little disruption to our plans especially in the month of March and April, however, it also helped us to reaffirm our believe in e-farming. We are now more motivated than ever that with online platforms like MPC, farmers will have little to worry about even in dire times when physical contact is discouraged, shops shut down and offices closed for consultation. What we stand for is the next generation agriculture and we will continue to put more effort in other to expand our customer base (farmers, agro-allied industries, private organizations, government institutions etc) so that we can effectively render services and ultimately eradicate hunger in Africa and the rest of the world.
Apalowo Oluropo Ayotunde, N-GAGE Champion