A business model for delivering information to smallholder farmers: RUNetwork

Founder of RUNetwork, Marc Bernard (left) explaining the model

As the hype for integrating new information and communication technologies (ICTs) into agricultural value chain projects increases, one of the common questions that ICT4D analysts often try to answer is, who pays for the service – the poor farmer, the project, the government, or a donor agency?

Payment for information services to farmers is one of the components of a business model for deploying ICT solutions to rural agricultural communities. A business model, however, goes beyond just the cost of the service to the user, to the sources of funding of the service, avenues for income generation, the value of the service to the user, the potential to scale beyond pilot stage, and the capacity to sustain itself after the initial funds runs out. Business models are seen as systems that organizations use to create, deliver, and capture value.

The clip below describes how Rural Universe Network (RUNetwork) uses a voucher system to answer some of these important questions in its bid to bridge the gap between smallholder farming and scientific research.

As you watch, try to identify how RUNetwork creates value to the users of the service; how the system generates revenue for operation; who pays for the services being provided; how is the system being scaled; and how is the service sustained?

The model was successfully tested in 5 different countries and scaled up to 14 communities all over Uganda. It is presently introduced in another 15 African countries in a collaborative project between the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE Germany) with financial support from the African Development Bank (AfDB).

For more information on RUNetwork, visit here.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hamiisi says:

    It’s creates value to farmers because they get informed to their disease problems and find solution which will increase on their production and the project adds value in both small scale and large scale farmers .
    This project also brings extension service close to them on a zero pay which also helps farmers so much and encourages them to stick on agriculture .
    This project can be scaled up by involving experts to have some days to meet that group of farmers to revise their answers I think it will bring better impact, they will also have a chance to get contacts to experts for more consultation mostly those who can not access Internet Bt they have the phones

    1. Great comment, Hamiisi!

      I am not sure whether you are saying “zero pay to farmers”. Do you mean farmers don’t pay for the services you provide to them? If yes, then how are you going to sustain the initiative? Who has been paying for it so far? Who is going to pay for it in the future?

      I am also concern with the traveling involve with the initiative by the local field staffs.
      Is there any way that you think you reduce the trips?
      Is there a way to get farmers transmit some of these information to you without you going there all the time? Do you anticipate increase in calls for such visits in the future?
      Do you have enough field staffs to respond if the volume of calls from farmers for support increases?



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