4 innovations that have the potential to change the lives of small-scale farmers

Randy Opoku Barimah


Did you know that smallholder farmers account for over 80% of all farmers in Africa? Also, did you know that they produce 70% of the food we consume in Africa? Isn't it surprising? You'd be even more surprised to learn that the farmers who feed arguably the entire continent are typically impoverished.

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There are numerous things we can do to assist in a variety of ways. The following innovations have the potential to improve the living conditions of poor small-scale farmers. Many of these technologies are, thankfully, already available; the challenge is figuring out how to use them more effectively with a lot of smallholder farmers involved.

  • Extension of internet connectivity to aid in productivity-enhancing education

Consider your life at home or at work if you didn't have access to the internet. Your creativity may come to a halt at times. Consider small-scale farmers in the same way. According to Sunga from the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), more than four billion people do not have access to the internet. “The vast majority of smallholder farmers live in remote areas, where good, fast internet connectivity reaches less than 30% of the population. Women constitute almost half of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, yet they are less likely to access the internet than men in the same communities” (2017).

Imagine alleviating the gender internet divide gap; knowledge of things like market prices, weather, or data on specific crop varieties would enable partial data-driven practices that would increase yield and market competitiveness. This will only be possible if internet access is widely expanded, education on the use of certain devices is provided, and the cost of internet access is reduced.

  • Mobile phones and other platforms assist in their positive exposure.

When you think of the simplest way to get a farmer connected to wireless service for services, you might think of a mobile phone. Remember how many reports of armed robbery of farmers and market women in Ghana we used to get? Thanks to mobile money and mobile banking, those days are over.

Mobile money is arguably nationwide, and it can be found in every corner of Ghana's hinterlands. Mobile banking on the other hand is usually limited in some functionalities and can be developed to help provide formal financial services to farmers.

Using data-driven cultivation protocols, platforms like the Complete Farmer Grower assist growers in meeting international market standards. Farmers don't have to worry about sales after harvest because the Complete Farmer platform already has a market (Buyers) where they can sell their harvested yield. Growers can also sell their harvested yield for a higher price than the average market price. You can sign up for more information by clicking here.

Farmers having access to such platforms, and investing in mobile phones as an agricultural tool to be able to access such platforms, has never been important enough due to conventional farming concerns being addressed by the Complete Farmer Grower product. 

  • Improving farmer-data with unique identifiers

Wigmore of the Internet of Things Agenda defines a unique identifier as a numeric or alphanumeric string that is associated with a single entity within a system. UIDs allow that entity to be addressed so that it can be accessed and interacted with.

Websites can use UIDs to identify who you are and personalize your experience on the site by showing you products based on products you've previously interacted with. “But data about smallholder farmers in developing economies are largely based on samples and extrapolations and is thus unreliable or incomplete” (Sunga, 2017).

The eWallet system in Nigeria, for example, has enabled the government to identify and deliver input subsidies directly to smallholder farmers based on personal and biometric data provided by the farmers. This technology, like all innovations, isn't a silver bullet. Data systems must be able to guarantee that data remains anonymous for the privacy and security of individuals in order for unique identifiers to improve farmers' lives, explained Sunga. 

  • Increased electricity access

You might be perplexed as to why this is a viable option. Yes, it is! Two-thirds of Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is still estimated to be without electricity.

Certain methods for cooling and preserving food benefit from the use of electricity. It also aids in the improvement of certain activities such as irrigation, land preparation, and harvesting. Smallholder farmers' ability to participate in global food systems, according to Sunga, is dependent on their access to electricity.

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Redefining agriculture for small-scale farmers to change their lives can be made possible with modern technology, creative thinking, zeal, and passion to help small-scale farmers overcome their everyday challenges and improve efficiency. This is where the points listed above come in handy.