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November 26, 2011

12 ways mobile technology can boost African agriculture

 by Femi Adewunmi

In a recent report, titled Connected Agriculture, Vodafone and Accenture identified 12 opportunities for mobile phone technology to increase agricultural income and productivity. Some of these platforms
are already widely used in Africa, while others are still in the early stages of implementation.

1. Mobile payment systems

Mobile payment systems give farmers without access to financial services an inexpensive and secure way to transfer and save money using their mobile phones. By allowing smallholder farmers to save small amounts of money, receive payments quickly in times of need and pay for agricultural inputs via their phones, mobile payment systems replace costly traditional transfer services and the need to travel long distances to collect funds.

2. Micro-insurance systems

Mobile micro-insurance systems can safeguard farmers against losses when bad weather harms their harvest, encouraging them to buy better quality seeds and invest in fertiliser and other inputs. This can improve productivity and boost farmers' livelihoods as well as enabling suppliers to expand their market among smallholder farmers.

3. Micro-lending platforms

Micro-lending platforms could connect smallholders in Africa with individuals elsewhere willing to provide finance to help the farmers to buy much-needed agricultural inputs.

4. Mobile information platforms

Through mobile information platforms, farmers receive text messages with information that help to improve the productivity of their land and boost their incomes. Governments and agricultural support organizations can use the platforms to distribute information about available subsidies and programmes.

5. Farmer helplines

Farmers call a helpline and speak to agricultural experts who can provide answers to agricultural queries.

6. Smart logistics

Smart logistics uses mobile technology to help distribution companies manage their fleets more efficiently reducing costs for farmers and distributors, cutting fuel use and potentially preventing food losses.

7. Traceability and tracking systems

Mobile technology can be used to track individual food products through the supply chain from grower to retailer.

8. Mobile management of supplier networks

Food buyers and exporters can use mobile phones to manage their networks of small-scale growers and help field agents collect information.

9. Mobile management of distribution networks

Distributors of farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizer could use mobile technology to gather sales and stock data, improving availability for farmers and increasing sales.

10. Agricultural trading platforms

Linking smallholder farmers directly with potential buyers through a mobile trading platform could help them to secure the best price for their produce.

11. Agricultural tendering platforms

Online platforms for submitting and bidding on tenders for food distribution, processing and exporting could make the agricultural supply chain more competitive and efficient.

12. Agricultural bartering platforms

Mobile could help agricultural workers in rural areas exchange goods and services and improve communities livelihoods. For rural people with little or no disposable income, exchanging goods, services and skills with community members is an important part of their livelihoods.

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