SOUTH African mobile operators are breaking new ground across Africa by providing solutions to problems in the agricultural sector, such as helping in the fight against stock theft.
Vodacom has been rolling out a service called “know your farmer” across Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia, to help the subsistence farmers with easy access to finances and markets.
Vuyani Jarana, chief officer of the enterprise business unit at Vodacom, said the big data platform was cloud-based and allowed for the registration of a farmer’s identity, land marks and any information that could be required by the government, should it need to provide farming subsidies.
“If a government of a particular country wants to boost, say, coffee production by using the platform, it is able to track the farmers via the platform. The government can also offer advice to the different farmers on how to increase their production,” he said.
Citing World Bank data, Jarana also said due to risks associated with farming — both on the production side and the market side — smallholder farmers only accounted for about 5% of all private sector funding to the sector.
“Know your farmer” also enables farmers to be provided with advice that can help them increase their yield — all through a USSD mobile service.
The farmers can get advice on any queries related to crop and livestock. “The injection of advice through mobile services will improve the production of the farmer and de-risk production failure,” Jarana said.
In terms of market information, the major players can trace production trends as well as the expected harvests.
“This enables even financiers to know the production efficiencies of these farmers, attracting for financing and creating liquidity,” Jarana said.
He added that such advances in technology also help governments to make direct interventions to improve skills.
MTN also recently launched a livestock tracking solution in Nigeria. Through this solution, which works through a solar-powered system that uses GPS technology, herders are able to track the location of grazing cattle.
The solution also sends emergency alerts to authorities when the livestock is exposed to danger.
The technology is not yet available in SA.