9 ways new technologies can help smallholder farmers 30/10/2019

How can we make blockchain technologie work in the agrifood sector, with entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers in emerging countries benefiting from it? Fairfood and CTA have joined hands to explore the opportunities and challenges. In a series of blogs, info sheets and webinars we´ll dive into this topic.

When I went to work this morning, I wasn’t afraid of being robbed on the streets. I arrived at the office and wasn’t at all afraid of being mistreated by my boss or colleagues. The thought of not being paid at the end of the month also didn’t cross my mind. Whenever I want to do or learn something, I know it’s only one Google search away from me. I can basically go, do, learn and become wherever and whatever I want. It is a fact I’m hardly ever aware of, because it simply seems normal to me.

Financial exclusion

Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Especially not for most of the 500 million smallholder farmers that produce 70 to 80 percent of the food we consume. Taking their households into account, we are talking about more than 2 billion people. Most of us have a romanticised idea of farmer life; living on the peaceful country side, connected with nature… Sounds great! The sad reality however, is that over 60% of these farmers don’t even earn enough to enjoy a proper meal themselves. What it comes down to, is that they don’t earn enough to buy the food they produce themselves.

A lot of this has to do with their remoteness, and a poor political and financial structure in their country. This results in financial exclusion from the global economy. Most of these farmers live in rural areas and belong to a demographic that is the least likely to have access to an official proof of identity. Without official records, it is very difficult for them to proof their ownership or to build up a financial track record. This, in turn, makes it difficult for them to get access to loans or insurances, which makes them the most vulnerable when socio-economic or environmental disasters occur. Their remoteness and lack of official documents puts them in a weak negotiation position, leaving room for structural underpayment and bad working conditions. It allows for human rights violations like child labour to persevere even in today’s world.

Where only 6 percent of farmers has access to a bank account, over 36 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa has access to smartphones.

Access to internet

Luckily, some interesting developments have been signaled. Where only 6 percent of farmers has access to a bank account, over 36 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa has access to smartphones. It is expected that in the next 7 years, over 1.4 billion new users will get access to the internet through smartphones, bringing the number up to 60 percent of mobile phone ownership in sub-Saharan Africa by 2025. Access to the internet brings a world of opportunities to the rural poor. It doesn’t only allow them to stay up to date and become more productive like us; with new technologies such as blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, access to the internet can empower farmers in many different ways.

With blockchain technology and IoT sensors, information can become measurable and reliable at a significantly lower cost. This allows smallholders to build up a financial identity, gain access to financial services, increase their yield and strengthen their negotiation position within their supply chain. Potentially, we could have everyone around the world participate in the global economy. So, how can we make this work?

On the 14th of November we will discuss the biggest learnings of implementing digital solutions for smallholder farmers.

We identified nine ways in which new technologies such as blockchain can empower smallholder farmers:

  1. Access to self-sovereign digital identity
  2. Proving ownership claims
  3. Access to affordable loans
  4. Access to affordable insurance
  5. Sending and receiving payments
  6. Avoiding middleman corruption
  7. Increasing yield and productivity
  8. Strengthening negotiation position
  9. Capitalising on data

The coming months, we will dive into these topics, inviting innovators, thinkers and experts to share with us how they envision this. Of course, we also realise that new technologies like blockchain or IoT will only work if they actually add value for the farmers using them. It isn’t always easy to connect rural farmers to new digital systems, and there are a lot of learnings to be gained before attempting to do so. For this reason, we partnered up with CTA, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation.


Join our guest speakers Ben Ekanikpong (El Kanis & partners) and Ad Rietberg (Agri-wallet). to discuss the biggest learnings of implementing digital solutions for smallholder farmers.

We will make sure to set-up an interactive session in which everyone gets the change to ask questions and learn from each other.

Click here to register for the webinar. No time? You can still sign up and will receive a link to re-watch it in your own time.

This initiative is made possible with the financial assistance of CTA. The views expressed above are those of Fairfood and can therefore in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of CTA.

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