Farmers in off-grid, rural communities in the global South face multiple challenges. Post-harvest losses, lack of quality inputs, access to market, agronomic information and lack of value-addition being just some of them. Solutions exist to each of these challenges individually, but they usually require individual entrepreneurs to want to set up those services in a community, and/or require some enabling catalytic factor, such as access to energy. When these solutions are set up individually, they are often not coordinated or aligned for the benefit of the community, or have critical gaps in their scope.
To address these challenges, SVRG with partners in Uganda has created the Smart Agri-Centre – a piece of permanent village infrastructure that combines all the key priorities for farm value-addition, yield- and income-maximisation. With our unique cold storage facility at its centre, and surrounded by multiple spaces for dry storage, training, value-addition, marketing and other services, the Smart Agri-Centre serves as a one-stop-shop to meet the main challenges holding back farm productivity in remote rural communities. The Smart Agri-Centres generate their own renewable energy from 45kWp installed solar to provide the energy needs of the services and storage solutions. The productive use spaces are flexible and customisable so that they can be adapted to the specific and changing needs of the community as time progresses. And any spare energy can be distributed to other community services (clinics or schools, for example) and, regulation-permitting, neighbouring houses and businesses.
Constructed using innovative, low-cost local materials and construction methods, Smart Agri-Centres can be tailored to the specific needs of a community. Depending on the type and throughput of priority value-adding services, we can easily increase the size and/or power available in a Centre to meet requirements.
From our testing results so far, depending on community, we anticipate a Smart Agri-Centre at least doubling farmer productivity/income, and greatly reducing post-harvest losses. Smart Agri-Centres can either be operated by independent agri-entrepreneurs, or by community institutions such as agricultural cooperatives. After handover and training, we provide ongoing support and advice to operators.