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Farmers Will Benefit Most from Mobile Financial Services

By Wayan Vota on December 28, 2016

The world’s population is projected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that farmers will need to produce 70% more food than in 2006 to meet this demand. While agriculture productivity has been increasing, production capacity is growing slowly, and food security remains a serious issue in many countries due to rising prices as well as availability

Mobile has the most potential to improve the income of smallholder farmers in developing countries in Africa, India and the Middle East, and this analysis focuses on the benefits mobile can bring to these people.

Connected Agriculture, a report by Accenture and Vodafone on the role of mobile in driving efficiency and sustainability in the food and agriculture value chain, focuses on 12 opportunities that deliver broad socio-economic and environmental benefits. They are grouped in four categories that were identified through stakeholder consultations as the most important.

  • Improving access to financial services
  • Provision of agricultural information
  • Improving data visibility for supply chain efficiency
  • Enhancing access to markets.

Mobile can help farmers improve agricultural productivity by giving them access to basic financial services, new agricultural techniques and new markets, in turn helping them to secure better prices for crops and a better return on investments. As their income improves with each harvest, they can invest in better seeds, fertiliser and chemicals.

Mobile Financial Services Have the Greatest Impact

The greatest potential for improving farmers’ income comes from access to financial payments and agricultural information via mobile, together delivering approximately 75% of the total increase in agricultural income from the opportunities studied.

The three opportunities to improve the lives of farmers with financial services are not new in themselves and some of them are already being accessed via mobile:

  • Mobile payment system: a low-cost, secure and quick way to transfer money to other individuals or businesses and accrue savings to invest in better agricultural inputs.
  • Micro-insurance system: a convenient and affordable way to buy micro-insurance against crop failure when buying seeds and fertiliser, and to receive payouts.
  • Micro-lending platform: a platform to secure loans from distant investors to buy seeds, tools, machinery or animals to improve output.

Offering money transfers, micro-insurance and micro-loans via mobile phone gives the rural poor an opportunity to access low-cost, safe and secure financial services. Farmers can benefit as they deal with challenges such as unpredictable weather, animal or plant diseases, and unpredictable crop yields.

They can use their mobile phones to access insurance services, build up funds to cover emergencies and access wages or subsidies without having to travel long distances. Financial services help farmers improve agricultural productivity because they can invest in the tools, machinery, seeds and other inputs they need to grow more and better crops.

These benefits are also likely to extend to the wider community as increased agricultural income helps rural families afford education, healthcare and other services. Improving farmers’ access to financial services could generate an additional agricultural income of US$51 billion in 2020. This is based on an anticipated 240 million connections to these services.

Filed Under: Agriculture
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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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3 Comments to “Farmers Will Benefit Most from Mobile Financial Services”

  1. taji says:

    Very true, due to the rapid increase in population mobile application is the easiest way and cheapest to ensure agricultural information and market demand reaches each farmer.
    Their already established apps doing so Question is how do we effectively make sure that the capacity of expected quantity is reached.

  2. Carl Wahl says:

    Greetings –

    I have to push back a bit, esp. when the authors are a giant professional services company with revenues in the billions and a massive mobile service provider.

    Reading through the article, I don’t see much disaggregation about the so-called “rural poor”. Can we generalize that broadly and say “Farmers” (e.g., all farmers) will benefit, or is this “the farmers that live along the main routes with access to network access to inputs, capacity to negotiate prices, can hire labour, and have the good luck of being educated as a youth” will benefit?

    I would like, as always, for someone to do more research with dissecting why a particular agriculture service (mobile-based or otherwise) worked, who it worked for, and why it did not work for others. Building that sort of corpus of information that would help develop a toolbox would likely be more useful in designing (or passing on) mobile agriculture services within a given set of contexts (e.g., mobile penetration, existing ag-to-market pathways / value chains, land tenure, gender rights, etc.).

    Thanks as always for the articles!

  3. Paul Ondeng says:

    In the context of rural farmers in developing countries, there is no doubt that mobile financial services can bring about positive transformation but it must be understood that it is only a part of the solution to the problem which has often been described as dysfunctional market systems. But it is no doubt an important part