Connected agriculture: The growing role of mobile telephony

rural_comms-kenyaA farmer makes notes on crop conditions and checks market prices.Telecommunications has long been at the centre of global commerce in driving business transformation. Yet recently, mobile communications has become more widely recognised and accepted as an enabler of sustainable growth, especially in Africa and other developing markets

It does not have the same barriers to access as other forms of technology. It is simple, inexpensive and convenient to use. And access to mobile networks is now widely available, even in more remote areas. Soon it will be possible for everyone and everything to be connected.

A key beneficiary will be the development of more efficient supply chains. In particular, mobility will drive substantially improved productivity and income for agricultural producers   (a further US$138bn by 2020, according to Accenture estimates), as well as cutting costs and improving traceability for buyers and processors.

Not only will this provide social and humanitarian benefits for local smallholder farmers but such services are also proving commercially successful – the key to viability and sustainability in the longer term. As Oxfam CEO, Dame Barbara Stocking, has recognised: “Mobile telephony could have significant potential to help the poorest farmers towards greater food and income security.”

Vodafone and Accenture recently joined forces together with Oxfam to determine the key underlying issues which could be addressed through the application of mobile technology and to quantify the potential benefits which could be achieved.

In helping to meet the challenge of feeding an estimated 9.2bn people by 2050, the resulting study - ‘Connected Agriculture: the role of mobile [communications] in driving efficiency and sustainability in the food and agriculture chain - examined specific opportunities which could substantially increase agricultural income.

The study explored those areas identified as most important in realising the potential of mobile telephony in helping to feed tomorrow’s world, including improved access to finance and markets and better information and supply chains.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please see the March/April 2012 issue of African Farming

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