Hold Up – a What Farmer?
But, don’t be fooled — they might be small by name, but they’re mighty by nature. With an estimated 475 million farms of this kind across the globe, they occupy 12 percent of the world’s total farmland, living mostly in developing countries. And yet, smallholder farmers provide 80 percent of the food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa — areas where food security is not always guaranteed. So, we’d say their work is pretty important.
Looking at those stats, it’s safe to say that smallholder farmers have a lot of responsibility on their plates. But they also face a hefty number of challenges which leave their chances of a successful harvest hanging in the balance. Consider this:
Finding Farming Know-How
Keeping Up with Alerts
The vast majority of smallholder farmers don’t have bank accounts. This makes them reliant on cash-in-hand payments, of course, but that’s only part of the challenge. For example, without a bank account, it becomes much more complicated to put money aside into savings, or to access capital through loans. And what about the minority of smallholder farmers who do have bank accounts? Well, it doesn’t get much easier. One study in Uganda found that farmers travel 45 km (28 miles) on average to get to the bank.
Sounds pretty inconvenient, right? Well, enter the mobile phone. Mobile money platforms allow farmers to receive payments and make transactions without having to travel.
Many smallholder farmers don’t have access to the market for crops, which can mean that they are forced to sell their produce to middlemen at local markets. Also, farmers often don’t have access to current price information for their commodities. The cost? The middlemen often pay below the odds for the farmer’s produce — and the farmers are left in the dark about how they calculate these prices.
The good news? Even marketplaces can become digital! In some countries, there are SMS services which keep farmers up to date on the current prices for agricultural goods. Additionally, there are apps which allow farmers to get in contact with exporters, letting them cut out the middleman (quite literally). All this helps farmers to get a fair price for their produce.