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Technology Helping Smallholder Farmers With Business, Weather

Portable computers, tablets and smartphones have created new ways of accessing information. At the touch of a screen, we can check the bus schedule and decide whether to carry an umbrella. More and more, information and communication technology – often referred to as ICT – is also changing the way smallholder farmers do business.

Smallholder farmers often live in remote rural areas far from cities, markets and sometimes even roads. Most make sales to traders directly from the farm gate, for low prices, immediately after the harvest. Apps, SMS messages and radio programmes hold the promise to help farmers make informed business decisions about when, where and how to plant and sell their crops. Today, farmers are connecting with one another across vast distances with apps to improve their planting and harvesting skills. They receive weather and market price information through SMS messages directly on their phones. And they are able to use mobile phones to send and receive payments more quickly and securely.

Planting, harvesting and selling crops most effectively all require a great deal of time-sensitive information. Changing weather patterns due to climate change make it essential for farmers to access accurate and up-to-date weather forecast information to decide the best time to plant their crops. To reach more profitable markets, farmers need to know who is buying, which crops, how much, and at what price. In Afghanistan’s Faryab province, getting accurate and reliable market information is challenging. In the past, farmers either relied upon middlemen, or needed to travel great distances in search of mobile service, at great cost and risk due to insecurity.

Chad Skeers

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