Efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 have affected the agriculture supply chain profoundly. Large-scale purchasers of commodities such as hotels, restaurants and catering (also known as HORECA) and wet markets are forced to close, and logistic services are significantly disrupted. At the farmers’ level, the effects of COVID-19 results in fewer interactions with potential buyers and at times, the need to sell yields at lower prices.
During this time, many businesses are forced to transform digitally – people are working from home, grocery shopping is done online, but the Indonesian farmers are left behind. In PRISMA’s working areas, smartphones are not ubiquitous as only 55% of farmers use mobile phones and a mere 11.5% of those use the internet. Farmers still rely on face-to-face interaction although many also use phone calls for communication. During the pandemic, where physical interaction is limited and value chain is disrupted, it is imperative to employ a low-tech solution to accommodate agricultural market interaction and enable farmers in continuing their businesses.
Acknowledging the context, PRISMA partners with Viamo, a fast growing social enterprise that works to provide public service information via mobile, to support interactions in the agriculture market. The partnership will not only ensure the flow of goods and information to farmers despite connection problems during COVID-19, but also help solve the issues related to farmers’ limited access to mobile internet.
Expanding Viamo’s existing 3-2-1 Service, PRISMA and Viamo will work to provide market linkages and agricultural information for farmers and traders accessible by dialling 3-2-1. In Indonesia, Viamo partners with XL Axiata, the second largest mobile provider in the country with more than 55 million subscribers to provide the service free of charge to its subscribers, including farmers.
The agricultural content on Viamo’s 3-2-1 Service, developed together with PRISMA, is expected to launch in Indonesia in the coming months focusing on four commodities namely rice, maize, beef and pig and can be accessed throughout Indonesia. PRISMA and Viamo’s partnership will link farmers to potential buyers in order to maintain some of the connections available in normal times. The system matches farmers and traders based on their location and commodities. When there is a match, farmers will receive an SMS with telephone numbers of up to 5 buyers that they can contact and sell to. In addition to the market linkage service, PRISMA and Viamo will also provide updated information on the 3-2-1 Service including loan restructuring as per Government of Indonesia (GOI) directions, changing logistics restrictions and other up-to-date agricultural information.
The Indonesia 3-2-1 market linkages program is an adaptation of a market linkages program on 3-2-1 in Nepal where Viamo had positive results, including demand for the platform and increased profits for farmers. Acknowledging the bigger scale in Indonesia, PRISMA and Viamo are upgrading the market linkages system to provide an automated system to better serve farmers and traders in Indonesia.
While the PRISMA and Viamo had discussed this partnership before the onset of COVID-19, the project became even more urgent with the onset of the pandemic and the disruption to value chains. In order to solve this constraint, the teams knew they needed to move quickly. Amidst working-from-home orders and travel restrictions, this partnership has formed entirely virtually with everything from the idea origination, design workshop, contracting and implementation taking place online, with coordination between teams in Indonesia, Nepal, Zambia, Canada and the US. Despite the current challenges due to COVID-19, PRISMA and Viamo have been swift to adapt and strive to support linkages in the agriculture market to ensure the smooth flow of goods and information.
 Grow Asia Exchange, 2020. Driving AgriTech Adoption: Insights from Southeast Asia’s Farmers.