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One Acre Fund: Driving 40k to 80k interactions per day through USSD Portal

One Acre Fund: Driving 40k to 80k interactions per day through USSD Portal

Infobip enabled One Acre Fund, an agricultural service provider for smallholder farmers, to interact more efficiently with farmers participating in its program and cut operational costs by rolling out a USSD portal.

Infobip enabled One Acre Fund, an agricultural service provider for smallholder farmers, to interact more efficiently with farmers participating in its program and cut operational costs by rolling out a USSD portal.

One Acre Fund is one of the most prominent non-profit organizations on the continent and supplies approximately 1.5 million farmers in East Africa with asset-based financing and agriculture training services to reduce hunger and increase farmer incomes. It also offers crop storage solutions and teaches farmers about market fluctuations to time crop sales to maximize their profits.

The organization is headquartered in Kakamega, Kenya, and works with farmers in rural villages throughout Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia.

Challenge

A need for better service

In 2016, One Acre Fund introduced an interactive mobile channel to use two-way SMS to communicate with farmers for non-seasonal orders on a small scale (500 to 1000 interactions).

However, the channel service provider did not offer a post-paid option to One Acre Fund, but only a prepaid model. In addition, the agricultural service provider found this provider’s level of service to be sub-par.

The limited functionality of the SMS channel also created a disconnect between the farmers and the organization.

Solution

USSD for practical, interactive communication

One Acre Fund decided to switch to a USSD solution that would offer a self-service interface for farmers to interact with.

The choice for USSD was made based on user-friendly functionality because it’s an interactive, menu-based technology communication protocol available on every GSM-enabled mobile device. It is a session-based text communication without a store-and-forward mechanism (unlike SMS) that is practical for interactive communication, such as banking or education.

Infobip was chosen to roll out the USSD portal, and it was launched in Rwanda in December 2018 and Kenya in August 2019. Infobip added roughly nine extra services to the USSD code and typically ran a daily volume of 40 000 to 80 000 interactions.

Result

Reduced deficit, faster expansion

Since the introduction of the USSD portal, One Acre Fund has seen an increase in engagement with farmers.

The user-friendly functionality of the solution means anything a client wants or needs can be requested at a touch of a button. This helps with the paying out of loans and benefits the customers’ journey. USSD gives One Acre Fund a clear user entry point that allows it to rely less on field staff to disseminate information.

Implementing the solution will also help One Acre Fund reduce its deficit, allowing it to expand to more regions faster, with a limited donor funding growth per year. In addition, USSD has enabled the organization to move away from manual data manipulation, resulting in faster processing times with fewer overhead costs and improved customer experience. In October 2019, One Acre Fund recorded 1.3 million user sessions via the USSD portal and predicted two million for December 2019. It forecasted a volume of 40 million user sessions for 2020. One Acre Fund is also planning to trial the solution in Burundi, Tanzania and potentially Zambia and Malawi.

John Ohaga
Africa Communications Manager at One Acre Fund

The choice for USSD was made based on user friendliness. We have added roughly nine extra services to the USSD code and typically run a daily volume of 40 000 to 80 000 interactions.