Most Batswana depend on agriculture for their livelihood and at some point the sector was the largest contributor to the national economy. At independence in 1966, Botswana was a predominantly agrarian economy and the sector accounted for 43 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product
(GDP). While agriculture’s contribution has gradually spiraled down to insignificant proportions, the fact remains that it is still the most practiced source of subsistence livelihood in Botswana.
Experts have opined that the decline in agriculture’s contribution to the national economy can be attributed to refusal by farmers to adopt new methods of crop production and animal rearing, which resulted in low yields and high national food insecurity. Technology and farming don’t always go hand in hand in the case of Botswana. In a rare development, an unlikely entrepreneurial pairing of a farmer and a web application developer have joined forces in a bid to bolster agriculture into the 21st century.
Tebogo Dichabeng and Thuto Gaotingwe have come together to form a company known as Modisar, a software application tool that helps farmers with record keeping and distant activity tracking solutions. Dichabeng says they came up with the idea after establishing a niche in the market.
“You will find that most farming enterprises started off as a hobby that grew over time. It then becomes a form of saving and wealth building. At times such a scenario presents a challenge as farmers are unable to keep track of their stock because they are part time farmers. Thats where Modisar comes in, its a way of modernizing this age old practice of farming,” said Dichabeng.
He added that Modisar infuses technology into livestock management.
The program does daily stock taking, which includes keeping track of numbers, vaccination periods, feeding schedules and general information around the needs of the stock. Dichabeng said such a program is key to successful farming and expressed hope that the modernized program will further attract youth into farming. Modisar also keeps farmers abreast of new developments around the industry, including buying and slaughter dates at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).
The product is still in the research and development stages and the two are yet to unveil the software and smart phone application to farmers. However, Dichabeng and Gaotingwe have been able to sign up 100 young livestock farmers across the country, who have all shown interest in purchasing the program.
“Modisar is optimized for cattle, sheep and goats. We only provide information through a news letter for smaller stocks like poultry,” they said.
Even though its still at trial stages, the company, which is under incubation at the Innovation Hub, has managed to score international recognition. In November, Modisar received a first place award at the Orange Africa Social Venture Prize 2014 in Cape Town. The company was recognized for its social entrepreneurship and activity with a P300 000 cash price. Dichabeng said the competition provided a good networking and exposure platform for their product as it included start ups from all over Africa. He said Modisar was in a class of its own as it had no direct competitors.
“Livestock farming is prevalent in Southern Africa but there is not a lot of technological development coming out of the region. We are now ready to present our product to investors and we look forward to more invitations to tech funding events around Africa,” he said.
The two entrepreneurs hope to rope in multinational investors including successful farmers in Botswana, who will not only give them funds in exchange for equity but also do risk assessments on the long term viability of the start up.