Farmers get fertilizer advice with loans via mobile technology

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NM Rice linked with services of BPI Globe BanKO Inc. (BanKO)

Using mobile technology, Filipino rice farmers now have access to personalized fertilizer advice and micro-loans to buy fertilizer for their crop thanks to a new partnership between a microfinance bank and a farmer-focused organization.

Technologies are great solutions by themselves, but linking them to financial services can provide even more benefits for farmers.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in partnership with the Philippines Department of Agriculture; developed an Internet-based tool named Nutrient Manager for Rice (NMRice), which provides rice farmers with a fertilizer recommendation precisely matching their crops’ nutrient needs. Use of this recommendation increases a farmer’s’ profit and rice yield. The Internet version was supplemented through partnership with the Agricultural Training Institute by a mobile phone service in 2011, and early this year as an Android application that can be downloaded for free.

NMRice is now being linked with services of BPI Globe BanKO Inc. (BanKO), the first mobile-based, microfinance-focused savings bank in the Philippines.

BanKO has agreed to partner with Alalay sa Kaunlaran (ASKI), Inc., a farmer-focused group in Central Luzon in the Philippines, to provide micro-agri loans for agricultural inputs for Filipino rice farmers. The provision of the micro-agri loans is being pilot-tested with rice farmers receiving a crop management recommendation from NMRice to increase their rice yield and profit.
The initial number of farmer-beneficiaries targeted by ASKI in the pilot is 1,500. The agreement between BanKO and ASKI was signed on May 25, 2012. Disbursement for the loans will start in late June to early July.

"This partnership is the beginning of a great opportunity to help rice farmers by combining their access to financial services with timely information on the best-bet rice management practices for increasing yield and profit in their fields," says Dr. Roland Buresh, IRRI’s nutrient management expert and lead developer of NMRice.

"Fertilizers are often the highest cost for rice farmers after labor, accounting for about 20 percent of total production or capital cost for the farmers,” he adds. “So, our team from IRRI partnered with the Department of Agriculture to develop NMRice to help rice farmers increase their yield and profit and to help contribute to achieving rice self-sufficiency. Through improved timing and selection of fertilizers, farmers can get more yield per amount of added fertilizer.

IRRI's 2012 annual report"Linking technologies developed from research with microfinance services that a farmer can easily access is a promising approach for helping farming households and boosting food production in the country," Dr. Buresh concludes.”

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