LONG VALLEY, New Jersey– In most parts of Africa, the agricultural sector is a primary source of employment and profit. With new mobile phone technologies implemented throughout the continent, African smallholder farmers have the economic opportunity to increase their productivity and income levels through mobile phone apps tailored to the challenges of small-scale agriculture.
MFarm is a mobile phone-based service that provides up-to-date market prices directly to low-volume African farmers via application or text message.
Jamilia Abass, a 29-year old computer scientist from Kenya, founded MFarm after learning that Kenyan farmers have been, “oppressed for decades and disconnected in terms of information.” For many farmers, a middleman provides both the price and the buyer, causing them to often be cheated and misled of the value of their produce. Through MFarm, farmers can SMS a code to receive information on the retail price of 42 crops in 5 markets.
MFarm also offers a group selling tool which allows farmers to team up and bring produce to designated collection points. Once the buyer confirms that they have received the produce, MFarm releases mobile money to the farmer’s account.
iCow is a virtual veterinary nurse that tracks farmer’s cows and provides them with advice on milk production, gestation and animal nutrition and healthcare.
The dairy industry in Africa is supported largely by a network of small-scale farmers who use rudimentary methods to manage their cows. According to iCow, smallholder farmers are estimated to produce 3 to 5 liters of milk per day, while 15 liters is the required production to bring a family over the poverty line.
iCow, which has garnered 6,000 dairy farmers on its platform, extends tools such as lifestyle calendars and health and diet record keepers to increase farmers’ milk production and profits.
FarmerConnect is a mobile platform that improves farmers’ crop yield and strengthens agricultural markets by disseminating advice and information.
The application, which serves more than 100,000 farmers mainly concentrated in areas of Africa and India, contains accessible informational portals for farmers. These portals include weather and climate reports, market intelligence, government announcements and development and policy changes in agricultural sectors. They also provide direct guidance to farmers as to what crops to grow, when to grow them and what markets to send their produce to.
According to an African cotton farmer, a forecast for heavy rains which he received through FarmerConnect allowed him to hire more labor for cotton farming and, thus, saved a tremendous amount of crops and profit.
Esoko is a communication platform that contains a series of applications, providing solutions for agricultural value chains.
Esoko recognizes the “growing momentum as subsistence agriculture makes way for agri-business” and wants to help these businesses and projects thrive through improved communications and efficiencies. The platform tailors specific content to each user, providing them with offers, harvest levels and stock data that will personally benefit their profits and production. Esoko has also launched a Farmer Helpline which enables businesses to access answers from a group of agricultural experts available on call.
Within established agri-businesses, farmers can use SMS and other tools from Esoko to communicate with each other and track the activity throughout their supply chain, thus increasing productivity and efficacy.
With these digital enterprises, along with the continuing efforts of technology developers to aid small-scale farmers, the agricultural sector in Africa is undergoing a positive transformation.
– Abby Bauer