June 27th, 2019, COSA Committee on Sustainability Assessment
New apps are not only bringing vital information to small farmers, they are increasingly driving their participation in a rich digital eco-system. Organizations like Lutheran World Relief (one of our partners) are working to make new technology available to farmers that would deliver science-based advice when they need it. With the average farmer in the developing world surpassing 60 years of age, these impactful technologies help engage younger farmers in productive ways. The early results are positive with improvements in quality, increased production, and reduced risks.
Producers often don’t have the latest knowledge for their farm enterprises, and technical assistance from extension agents is expensive and hard to scale, thus limiting its impact on income and overall sustainability.
Mobile technology, increasingly available to remote communities, can be a scalable and more cost-effective vehicle for delivering technical training and market information to farmers. They no longer need to travel to get market prices or agronomic training and they can get timely pest and disease warnings. For women and ethnic minorities, using mobile tech for extension services and technical assistance can thus have a unique appeal. The next generation farmers who are innately drawn to mobile applications especially stand to gain from information and learning that can be shared this way. Entire communities can learn more, at minimal cost.
Lutheran World Relief’s Mobile Farmer app is a solution that can overcome the geographic isolation of many small farmers and deliver encyclopedic knowledge even offline. As LWR combines this with a bilateral data exchange functionality, they create a ‘multi-logue’ between market actors.
COSA is collaborating with LWR and with several partners on these efforts. With our rigorous metrics, the performance of the technology can be improved constantly and its effects can be more readily measured. It is part of our commitment to advancing the democratization of data. A vibrant and farmer-centric digital ecosystem can directly engage farmers to improve their livelihoods. We are at the beginning of scalable technologies for small farmers and already we are gratified to see more and more tech-enabled platforms, such as the African initiative on big data and precision farming for small farmersthat we wrote about recently.