How cell phones are transforming farming

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Financial Inclusion

How cell phones are transforming farming

Photo by Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate Program

With the help of a simple mobile phone, farmers in developing countries like Uganda, Zimbabwe and Indonesia have been able to improve their crops and increase their income.

Through the AgriFin Accelerate program, Mercy Corps is addressing the financial inclusion gap for smallholder farmers and also offering services that are essential for higher productivity and income for farm families.

Launched in 2015, AgriFin is a six-year, $25 million Mercy Corps program supported by The MasterCard Foundation. The goal behind the AgriFin program was to support rural farmers through one easy platform: mobile phones.

The AgriFin program bundles together key components to help small-scale farmers, including agriculture advice from the private sector, research and financial service providers and telecommunication companies.

In several developing countries, smallholder farmers often are denied bank loans because of the size of their farmland, leaving many families to live on less than $2.50 a day. These farmers are the primary target group for the AgriFin program.

In Indonesia, the AgriFin program started with a simple text messaging system for farmers to receive daily agricultural tips, with the ability to submit questions to agriculture experts. After Mercy Corps received a grant from The MasterCard Foundation, the AgriFin program was advanced to provide financial services to farmers. Today, the fully financed Bank Andara is established in Indonesia, providing more than 700 smaller-scale banks with financial and technical support in order to assist low-income entrepreneurs.

Through programs like AgriFin, the rise of mobile farming has begun. In Kenya, many young farmers have turned to digital marketing through social media sites to advertise their farm produce on an online marketplace called OLX.

Cornelius Kiptoo is a 26-year-old farmer from the Metkei village, approximately 250 miles from Nairobi. Cornelius is a small-scale farmer who grows oats, potatoes, maize, and vegetables and also keeps dairy cows. He usually sells his produce through middlemen at a nearby market. Through this process, Cornelius is paid instantly, but he receives a much smaller profit than when he sells his produce on OLX.

“I took photos of my oats and posted them in the online marketplace and to my surprise, I got a buyer from the nearby town of Eldoret,” Cornelius said. “This buyer gave me $7.80 per bag of oats which is a much better price than $6 that I used to get on my farmgate. Even with the cost of transport factored in, I still made a good profit.”

Through the AgriFin program and its recovery services to small-scale farmers, many families like Cornelius have not only increased their income but have learned the necessary tools and techniques to improve the overall quality of their farms.

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