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Vodafone reveals six mobile services to help developing world farmers

Connected Farming report concludes simple mobile services could boost farm gate incomes by billions of dollars around the world

A report from Vodafone has showed that small-scale farmers in emerging markets could benefit to the tune of billions of dollars if they had better access to mobile connectivity.

In its report, Connected Farming in India, which was produced by Accenture Strategy, Vodafone revealed that 70 million Indian farmers could be taking in $9bn between them by the year 2020 if more attention was paid to mobile services.

India is one of the largest food producers in the world, with around 200 million people thought to work in the agricultural sector. It is also a country predominantly of smallholdings, with around 62% of farmers owning less than a hectare of land, which can significantly increase their risk from crop failure, pests, volatile market pricing and so on.

The mobile network operator’s charitable arm, the Vodafone Foundation, said that two-thirds of Indian farmers – who make on average less than $4 per day – could enhance their earnings potential by $128 per annum, a not insignificant amount for some of the world’s poorest workers.

Six simple tips

The report identified six mobile services that could be instrumental in boosting farming incomes in the developing world – not just in India:

  • Agricultural information services, such as weather forecasting, and apps giving advice on when to harvest and crop husbandry techniques to enhance yields, could increase incomes by an estimated $89 a year.
  • Mobile receipt services to allow transparency in commodity supply chains, would boost incomes by improving efficiency and giving farmers a means to fight fraud.
  • Mobile wallet services for payments and loans – such as Vodafone’s M-Pesa service, which is already available in India – could give farmers access to micro-finance and easy and transparent electronic payment systems, which may enhance incomes by nearly $700 in some cases.
  • Field auditing could enable auditors monitoring quality, sustainable practice and certification compliance to eliminate paper records and adopt electronic reporting, again enhancing efficiency.
  • Local supply chain services would allow smaller producers to transact fairly with local co-operatives.
  • Smartphone-enabled services would provide better functionality and richer sources of information than is currently possible using basic feature phone SMS and voice services. Here the emphasis would need to be on advanced and affordable smartphones and the network to back them up.

Farmers’ Club heads to new markets

Vodafone also announced that its existing Farmers’ Club – a social business model that began in Turkey six years ago and already offers a range of mobile services to farmers in developing countries – will start up in Ghana, India, Kenya and Tanzania.

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Services available through the club will vary from country to country, but will include some of the information services detailed in the Connected Farming report, such as virtual marketplaces and mobile money financial services products.

Vodafone said it was also taking a variant of the club into New Zealand, to see how its extensive existing mobile network could help drive productivity and innovation in a developed agricultural sector.

Vodafone Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific group regional chief executive Serpil Timuray said: “One-third of humanity relies on food grown by 500 million smallholder farmers with less than two hectares of land. 

“Mobile has a critically important role to play in increasing agricultural resilience and enhancing quality of life for some of the poorest people on earth.

“Our experience in Turkey has demonstrated how mobile services can transform farmers’ ability to increase crop yields, improve efficiency and grow farm gate incomes,” she said.

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