Jehiel Oliver’s resume doesn’t scream agriculture or tractors. In fact, these would be the last things you’d associate the 33 years old city boy from Cleveland, Ohio, with.
The masters in economics graduate from Cornell University, left a life as an investment banker in the US and come to Africa to set up an agriculture startup that uses text messages and mobile money to connect rural farmers to rentable low-cost tractors
The startup, known as Hello Tractor, has already raised $3 million in seed funding from USAID and other sources, and sold over 1,000 tractors, at $4,000 each, to farmers in Nigeria, npr.org reported.
“Nigeria has one of the largest inventories of uncultivated farmland on earth,” Jehiel Oliver, CEO Hello Tractor, says in a USAID sponsored documentary.
“The majority of the poor earn their income on the farm (yet) farmers don’t have the labor they need or the machinery to fully cultivate this land.
“I started with collaborative consumption and the idea that a tractor is expensive and is necessary to make farmers productive. So, if famers have access to a tractor, that’s as good as owning one,” he added.
And what’s different with Hello Tractors? At $4,000 per machine, the 15 horsepower Hello Tractors are 10 times cheaper than the average tractor found in Africa.
According to Harvard University’s Agricultural Innovation Policy in Africa Project, there are only 13 tractors in every 100,000 square kilometer (70,000 square miles). The global average is about 200 tractors in the same area.
In Africa, use of an uber-like cost shared tractor could help small-scale farmers plant on time in an efficient and cost effective way of accessing labor. It also helps to improve the quality of yields from the farm as it tills the fields much better than by hand laborers.
“There’s about 35 million small farmers in Nigeria, and 80 percent of that number, about 28 million, pay for off-farm labor at the same time,” Oliver told takepart in an interview in August 2015.