Telecom company Vodafone has recently published its Connected Farming in India report, which concludes that the introduction of simple mobile services designed to help small-scale farmers in emerging markets can boost the farm gate incomes of 7 crore Indian farmers by over Rs. 56,000 crore in 2020.
The report, based on research commissioned from Accenture Strategy with support from the Vodafone Foundation, has found that the average farming household lives on less than Rs. 250 per day with many farmers struggle to feed and educate their families. Simple mobile services can enhance earnings of almost two thirds of such farmers by an average of Rs. 8,000/- per year, creating a positive impact in communities.
The mobile services proposed by the report that can transform Indian farmers’ lives and livelihoods and boost farm gate income by over Rs. 56,000 crore in 2020 include –
- Agricultural information services providing early warning of weather events, information on the best times to harvest and advice on crop techniques to enhance yields. These services could increase an estimated 60 million Indian farmers’ annual incomes by an average of US$89 a year in 2020.
- Payments and loans enabling farmers to access simple and secure financial products and services using mobile money payment systems such as Vodafone’s M-Pesa, launched in India in April 2013. Access to highly cost-effective micro-finance and quick and transparent electronic payment systems could provide an annual benefit of US$690 for some farmers in 2020, representing a 39% increase in their average farming income.
- Receipt services to provide greater transparency in daily commodity supply chains, through use of registration and receipt services via the mobile, allowing farmers to raise their incomes by improving efficiency, reducing costs and eliminating fraud.
- Field audit enabling auditors monitoring quality, sustainability and certification requirements to move away from paper records and adopt instead electronic reporting via tablets and mobile data, greatly enhancing efficiency and potentially increasing annual average income by US$612 for some farmers.
- Local supply chain enabling small-scale producers to transact with local co-operatives through simple but robust information services and mobile money systems. These could boost some farmers’ annual incomes by US$271 in 2020; a 50% increase on current farming incomes.
- Smartphone-enabled services to provide deeper functionality and richer sources of information than is possible using basic SMS and voicemail services. While smartphone penetration is currently low in rural areas in emerging market economies, average device prices continue to fall year-on-year. Advanced and affordable mobile services could lead to an increase in average annual farming incomes of US$675 for more than four million farmers in 2020.
Addressing the gathering via a special message, the Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya, said, “Agriculture is the principal source of livelihood for more than 58% of our population. So for India to prosper, it is vital that the sector prospers and the benefits reach the small and marginal farmers. This government is committed to connecting our farmer brothers on the information highway and bringing to them the advantages of latest technology advances right to their fields and in their hands. I am delighted that Vodafone is committing to leverage its massive reach in the country and its learning from other emerging markets to maximise the potential of the India agricultural sector. I would like to congratulate ASSOCHAM for enabling this platform and Vodafone for producing a special report highlighting the immense potential of India’s Agriculture sector and launching a multi country initiative to realise the inherent possibilities of this domain.”
The Connected Farming in India report report was released by Raghav Chandra, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, at a conference organised by ASSOCHAM on the potential of mobile to transform agricultural value chains for enabling e-Kranti.
Releasing the report, Raghav Chandra said, “Technology for farmers is one of the focus areas under e-Kranti, a key pillar for realising the Digital India vision. The future of agriculture lies in bringing digital services to the farm as agriculture is increasingly becoming more and more knowledge intensive. The potential of mobile services in delivering this is unique as can be gauged by the success of the mKisan initiative that unleashes the power of the mobile in the hands of the farmers. The ‘Connected Farming in India’ report illustrates this in greater detail. It is indeed encouraging that ASSOCHAM and Vodafone have chosen to bring this important subject of enhancing value across the entire agriculture value chain to the forefront via this initiative.”
India is one of the world’s largest food producers with more than 20 crore people currently estimated to work in agriculture, around 10 crore of them farmers and the remainder working as agricultural labourers. Around 62% of farmers own less than one hectare of land, significantly increasing their exposure to the effects of crop failure, pests, disease and volatile market pricing.
The Telecom company announced the expansion of its Farmers’ Club initiative to six other countries, including ‘KisaanMitr’ in India and its equivalents in other emerging markets – Ghana, Kenya, New Zealand and Tanzania-over the coming year and in Turkey where it has been operational since 2009 and has already benefited 1.2 million farmers, helping them to enhance crop yields and increase farm gate incomes. The Vodafone Farmers’ Club is a social business model which offers a range of mobile services to help farmers boost productivity. Specific services offered under the Farmers’ Club in each country will vary but will include information services, virtual marketplaces in which farmers can sell their produce and mobile money financial services and products.
Launching the Farmers’ Club proposition across multiple countries, Vodafone Group Regional Chief Executive for the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific region, Serpil Timuray, said, “One-third of humanity relies on food grown by 500 million smallholder farmers with less than two hectares of land. Mobile has a critically important role to play in increasing agricultural resilience and enhancing quality of life for some of the poorest people on earth. Our experience in Turkey has demonstrated how mobile services can transform farmers’ ability to increase crop yields, improve efficiency and grow farm gate incomes. As the global population continues to expand, farmers have an urgent need to produce ever-increasing amounts of food without destroying habitats or depleting resources in a way which is unsustainable. Smart and forward-looking initiatives such as the Vodafone Farmers’ Club concept can make a real difference in addressing the global challenge of food production and security.”
Speaking about the Vodafone KisaanMitr initiative in India, Sunil Sood, MD & CEO, Vodafone India, said, “The basis for the next green revolution in India will be a “knowledge revolution”, and technology, particularly mobile, will play a key role in driving it. Today, 46% of people in rural areas have a mobile phone and access to mobile services among those yet unconnected is growing rapidly. This offers a new channel for delivering agricultural services and an opportunity to engage rural communities in new ways. We are committed to leveraging our learning and reach to create and deliver newer business models that will benefit the entire agriculture value chain. The launch of Kisan Mitra is our first step in addressing the needs of the farming community in India by providing access to timely information, markets and financial inclusion.”
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