The Connected Farmer Alliance (CFA), a public-private partnership between Vodafone Group, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and not-for-profit organisation TechnoServe, has announced its first commercial agreement to use mobile technology to increase the productivity of thousands of low-income, smallholder farmers in Tanzania.
Under the agreement between the CFA, agribusiness Olam International and Vodacom Tanzania (Vodafone is the majority shareholder), around 30,000 of Olam’s coffee, cotton and cocoa smallholder farmers in Tanzania will benefit from:
• farming advice via text message;
• notifications about upcoming training sessions and events;
• real-time information about changes in market prices; and
• the introduction of mobile money transfer using Vodafone’s M-Pesa service in place of cash from December 2014 onwards, giving farmers greater control over their finances and increasing security.
TechnoServe will also provide training for Olam International staff and farmers.
The agreement will lead to increased productivity and revenues for smallholding farmers supplying cash crops to Olam. The creation of a mobile-enabled supply chain will also provide considerable benefits for Olam, including:
• increased transaction security through the adoption of M-Pesa, reducing cash transportation costs and improving Olam’s ability to monitor and trace transactions;
• enhanced communications with farmers, strengthening relationships and building greater loyalty; and
• greater business efficiency as digital systems replace paper-based transactions and records.
Vodafone Group regional CEO, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific Region Serpil Timuray, said: "Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human development – from providing access to education and health information to helping boost productivity in the agriculture sector. In this case, mobile services are being used to enhance farmers’ lives and transform business performance at all points of the agricultural value chain.
“These partnerships have a powerful effect in helping rural communities develop new skills and grow revenues. Vodafone is committed to using its technology to help improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers around the world.”
Olam Environmental & Social Manager, South and East Africa Jeremy Dufour, said: “Working with the CFA, we can put agriculture expertise, accurate data and payments in to the hands of smallholder farmers in real time and at considerable scale, no matter how remote.
“This helps to improve yields and farmer livelihoods while our business benefits from smarter operations and lower costs. Ongoing evaluation from the farmers will be fed back in to the programme.”
TechnoServe VP Global Development Simon Winter, said: “Seventy-five per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, with the vast majority dependent on agriculture for all or part of their incomes. Growth in the agricultural sector, therefore, has been shown to be at least twice as effective at reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.
“Tanzania is a model example of this. But unlike in more developed countries, its farmers do not have sophisticated technology and infrastructure to rely on. This programme will help to change that.”