The introduction of a number of simple mobile services in India has the potential to boost the income of two-thirds of the country’s small-scale farmers by up to $9 billion a year by 2020, according to a report by Vodafone.
The report, based on research conducted by Accenture Strategy with support from the Vodafone Foundation, found that using six basic mobile services – such as early weather warnings, harvesting best practices, access to financial services and improved communication channels between buyers and sellers – can increase 70 million farmers’ income by an average of $128 a year.
The average farming family in India lives on less than $4 a day, so the initiatives could increase their income by almost 9 per cent.
India is one of the world’s largest food producers in the world with more than 200 million people working in agriculture. About 62 per cent of farmers in India own less than one hectare of land, which significantly increases their exposure to the effects of crop failure, pests, disease and volatile market pricing, the report claimed.
The six mobile services identified that can transform farmers’ livelihoods are:
1. Agricultural information services that provide early warning of weather events, information on the best times to harvest and advice on crop techniques to enhance yields. These services could increase an estimated 60 million Indian farmers’ incomes by an average of $89 a year in 2020.
2. Receipt services to provide greater transparency in daily commodity supply chains, allowing farmers to raise their incomes by improving efficiency and eliminating fraud.
3. Simple and secure financial services that use mobile money payment systems, such as M-Pesa. Access to cost-effective micro-finance and quick and transparent e-payment systems could provide an annual benefit of $690 for some farmers in 2020, representing a 39 per cent increase in their average farming income.
4. Digital field audits that monitor quality, sustainability and certification requirements. The move away from paper records and adopting electronic reporting via tablets and mobile data can improve efficiency and potentially increase annual average income by $612 for some farmers.
5. Local supply-chain information services, linked with mobile money systems, that enable small-scale producers to transact with local co-operatives. These could boost some farmers’ annual incomes by $271 in 2020.
6. Smartphone-enabled services that can provide richer sources of information than is possible with SMS and voicemail services. Advanced and affordable mobile services could lead to an increase in average annual farming incomes of $675 for more than four million farmers in 2020.
Vodafone also announced it is expanding its Farmers’ Club into four new emerging markets – India, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.
The Vodafone Farmers’ Club is a social business model that offers a range of mobile services to help farmers boost productivity. It was first launched in Turkey in 2009. Vodafone said the services offered in each country will vary but will include information services, virtual marketplaces in which farmers can sell their produce and mobile money financial services.
Vodafone said it will also develop a variant of the Farmers’ Club concept for farmers in New Zealand, a country with an advanced agricultural industry. Vodafone New Zealand is harnessing its extensive rural network to connect farms, agribusinesses and rural communities, helping to drive productivity, profitability and innovation, it said.