A pioneering automated payment and tracking system introduced by Zambian Breweries is helping to protect small-scale cassava farmers against COVID-19 ahead of the 2020 buying season.
The brewing company is poised to safeguard smallholder farmers under its cassava project in Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces through stringent COVID-19 precautionary measures through its Chembe BanQu automated payment system, which makes it easier for farmers to receive their money after selling cassava, through its partners MTN and Airtel Mobile money platforms.
Cassava is a key ingredient in brewing Eagle Lager.
“We are using digital technology to communicate with farmers to avoid mass gathering, on one end, and encourage social distancing, on the other end,” said Zambian Breweries agriculture manager Chris Nicolle.
Mr Nicolle explained that Zambian Breweries, together with Zazu, a Lusaka-based fintech company, is also providing e-learning services and digital communication solutions to smallholder farmers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We have a lot of concerns about meeting face-to-face. Therefore, with the help of Zazu, we have set up a digital platform that works entirely on SMS. This platform allows us to give farmers skills training, such as financial loan management, while at a distance,” he said.
Mr Nicolle noted that as the cassava buying season slowly draws closer, the brewing company is stepping up preventive measures aimed at combating the spread of the new respiratory disease.
Other measures include providing farmers with facemasks and hand sanitisers.
“We will also disinfect buying sites, observe social distancing, and put up COVID-19 posters, and hand washing sites to prevent transmission of the disease,” Mr Nicolle added.
The country’s largest brewing company will also protect its staff members on the frontline during the cassava buying season.
“We will provide adequate personal protective equipment to our frontline staff to ensure they are safe while attending to farmers,” he said.
Mr Nicolle explained Zambian Breweries would pay cassava farmers through mobile money to prevent them from handling cash during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are concerned about the safety of our farmers and we hope to provide them with a secure environment, once the cassava buying season opens,” he stressed.
Mr Nicolle disclosed that the 2020 cassava buying season was likely to open between June and July, depending on the dryness of the root crop.
Zambian Breweries launched its cassava project in 2016 to increase local sourcing of raw materials and improve the lives of smallholder farmers in Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces.