While mobile technology has made unprecedented impact on the lives of end consumers, the same technology is proven to show even greater impacts when integrated at the farthest end of the agriculture value chain that begins with Farmers.
Farming in the developing countries, including South Asia has taken positive turns by employing improved methods such as use of chemicals, crop management and machinery. However, the latest trends now include incorporating cellular technology in agriculture and livestock management which is seen to be benefitting farmers with enhanced agricultural productivity and improved market linkages.
For instance, in India, mobile technology for agriculture has been underway for the past few years with discussions now leading into equipping farmers with smartphones. One such example is the ‘Intuit Fasal’ service that connects rural farmers with buyers and provides them with real-time price information via mobile phone. The service currently has more than 500,000 users who earn an average of 20% more income thanks to the technology.
Although lagging behind, similar trends are now being developed in Pakistan where Agriculture is the mainstay of the country accounting for 21 percent of the total GDP while employing 45 percent of the labor force. Most of this labor force however, constitutes of subsistence farmers living in far flung areas and often isolated from market information resulting in critical communication gaps with commodity wholesalers.To address this information gap and other problems faced by the farmers, Telenor Pakistan in partnership with the provincial government of Khyber PukhtunKhwa is expectedto launch a mobile service in April 2012 - the first of its kind in a country that boasts cellular teledensity of 67.2 percent.
According to Telenor, the service is aimed at small farmers specifically, enabling them to make informed decisions when it comes to agriculture and livestock planning and trading. The information will be provided via push SMS, voice recordings and small community gatherings on topics including: weather forecasts, access to best quality commodities, latest agri trends, judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers, best breed of livestock, new methods of disease control, and quality feed and fodder.
The initiative is likely toempower farmers economically and contribute to overall poverty alleviation. Future roll outs to other provinces are planned within the same year.