Farmers search for information in emerging markets

Date

20. August 2018

Read time

5 min

Topics

Agriculture, Connectivity, Crop protection

As the world's population and food needs continue to expand, providing smallholder farmers with appropriate tools and information has become a growing area of focus.

Globally, the smallholder community is the invisible hand that feeds the world. They produce roughly 70% of the worlds’ food. Yet in many areas, they are the ones least likely to get access to tools they desperately need. While technology and information benefit developed nations, developing nations are lacking this support. Many areas may even lack basic connectivity. Two areas in immediate need of stronger technology support are access to information and crop protection. Both of which have the opportunity to remarkably improve smallholder farmers lives.

Within the area of information access, many of the tools, skills, and practices for smallholder farmers are handed down through families. Because farming knowledge is based on family practice rather than information, many do not know how to maximize their yields. Access to information is something that should be readily available thanks to mobile technology. But a vast majority of smallholder farmers live in remote areas where internet reaches less than 30% of the population. This 'digital divide' means that farmers simply do not have the access to weather, rainfall, soil indications and market demand. Agriculture companies should work with telecommunication companies to provide fast, reliable internet connection to support smallholder farmers. Thereby helping their local populations' food needs.

“For most small holder farmers, they may only know one of two options [for selling crops]… but that may not offer them the best price.”

Megan Willis

Social Impact & Sustainability Professional

Within the area of crop protection, information is also key to obtaining the best results. Similar to cultivation techniques, crop protection techniques are handed down through family practice. While products have changed, behaviours haven’t.

Last year, Raft partnered with Syngenta and conducted a series of interviews with business leaders across global emerging markets to understand the most pressing issues facing small holder farmers. These interviews targeted three major opportunity areas for growth.

  • How do we reduce negative externalities?

    Small holder farmers often prioritise monetary gain over anything else. Safety is simply not prioritised and farmers often overlook unsafe practices to real or perceived long term impact.

  • How do we increase safety while reducing costs?

    Access to technology and information have enabled new ways for small holder farmers to work. However, legacy still reigns supreme and behavioral change is difficult to achieve.

  • How do we create feedback at the point of need?

    Many farmers struggle with literacy, and those who can read, often don’t. Many times when farmers need information, and when they have it, are far apart and no longer useful.

While we see large agriculture companies focusing on cutting edge technology for mass market farming, they shouldn’t brush off the opportunities in the developing markets outlined above. Doing so may leave them open to disruption from smaller start-ups who are more agile in delivering their services in emerging markets.

Access to real-time information is an imperative. Not only for cultivation, but also protection. Increased connectivity for small holders could completely change the way we live, survive, and thrive in the future.

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