Funding Mechanism: LASER (Long-term Assistance and Services for Research) PULSE (Partners for University-Led Solutions Engine)
Funder: Australia Direct Aid Program (Ghana)
9 months (extended due to COVID-19)
Tsehay Cooperative Union & 10 of its primary cooperatives
Cooperative Management Platform
9.4 million smallholder farmers (less than 2 hectares) in Ethiopia
All participants in the discovery workshop, including representatives from Tsehay Union and 10 of its Primary Cooperatives, we're excited and eager to begin the ICT project.
There are several projects already operating in the domain of ICT in Ethiopia on extension and cooperative development which shows that even with the weak ICT infrastructure in Ethiopia, several options are feasible. The goal of this project is therefore to develop a scalable ICT-based operational management system that can be expanded beyond the pilot project with Tsehay Union in the Amhara region of Gondar.
Tsehay union, which specialize in oil seed farming and processing, has been selected because it is one of the fast-growing agricultural unions in Ethiopia with major facilities including warehouses for aggregating farmer crops and an oil refinery factory. It has a strong relationships with member primary cooperatives and it also has previous experience with ICT projects.
The objective of the project was to develop a solution to address the following business processes where practical.
The goal of the discovery phase is to understand the needs of CTA, Tsehay Union and other stakeholders (farmers, cooperatives, union, buyers, etc.), availability of data, information and resources, as well as current operating ICT systems.
This resulted in the proposal of six options for server and software configurations with accompanying pros and cons to aid the decision process. During this phase, monthly progress reports were presented to CTA and Tsehay Union to highlight progress, challenges, and steps to move forward.
Once the system was available in the local Amharic language and ready to be tested, training was be conducted for Tsehay Union, Cooperatives as well as farmers. During this phase, one full time Ethiopian Program Team member was stationed in Gondar, however COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented field visits from the program manager.
AgUnity started by conducting meetings with country partners to establish process maps, key stakeholders, product users and other supply chain information. Site visits were undertaken to identify any context specific issues.
During development phase AgUnity set up a cloud-platform secured in Blockchain, loaded relevant updates to the AgUnity App and assigned a device to each actor in the supply chain. Training manuals for the products were developed and distributed during this phase.
Where required, assistance was provided to farmers and processors in the process of finding buyers, communicating supply chain and quality assurance improvements, which in turn returned higher prices for the commodity.
During the discovery phase it was identified that connectivity at primary cooperatives is often poor or intermittent. To be able to store the amount of data required to operate a full system, while offline, requires significant data caching. This caching requires additional coding to the backend infrastructure for identifying sections of data and keeping it in sync, while continuously monitoring for network connectivity.
The development of a web application gives the Union, or other registered organizations, more flexibility in where they run the application. The web application runs on any device with a compatible browser and a direct connection to the backend.
Tsehay Union requested ‘t-tag’ traceability that allows for the individual tagging of bags and produce as well as farmer ID cards with QR-code labels that can be scanned to identify the crop origin. This feature requires the inclusion of scanning and tracking code into the DMS platform. This will enable the use of Android phones to scan QR tags on bags produce, and for the platform to be able to identify and report on where the produce came from.
The ability to generate reports at co-operatives, even while offline, is a core required function of the platform. To be able to run the reports locally and while offline (as opposed to on the cloud), requires all data to be synchronised locally, increasing coding and architecture complexity, and required storage size. Additionally, the app is available in the local Amharic language.