Smallholder farmers play a vital role in global food security, producing over 30-35% of the world's food. However, they often face significant challenges in accessing modern markets and adopting sustainable practices. These challenges have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war, climate change, and the increasing demands of global supply chains. These challenges have broader economic and social implications, as highlighted by the FAO’s insights on the importance of making global value chains inclusive and equitable.
Two recent EU regulations, the Deforestation Regulation and the upcoming Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, are adding to the pressure on smallholder farmers. These regulations require companies to disclose their environmental and social impacts, including deforestation and human rights abuses. This will lead to increased demand for data from smallholder farmer organisations, which many may not be able to provide.
Digitisation can help smallholder farmers to overcome these challenges and improve their sustainability. By providing smallholder farmers with access to digital tools and services, digitisation can help them to:
Digitisation of smallholder farmer value chains has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people. By providing smallholder farmers with access to new markets, financial products, and sustainable practices, digitisation can help them to increase their incomes, improve their livelihoods, and contribute to a more sustainable food system.
There are a number of examples of how digitisation is being used to support smallholder farmers around the world. For example:
Digitising smallholder value chains offers a number of benefits, including:
Imagine a future where smallholder farmers are using digital technologies to thrive. They have access to real-time market prices, weather forecasts, and financial products. They are using satellite monitoring to track their land use practices and reduce their environmental impact. And they are participating in carbon credit markets to earn additional income.
In this future, smallholder farmers are no longer marginalised actors in the global food system. They are valued partners who are playing a leading role in producing food in a sustainable way.
Digitisation of the value chain up to the farmer level will be essential for compliance with EU regulations. AgUnity has already initiated projects to digitise farmers, but scaling these efforts takes too much time. Therefore, the focus has now shifted to first digitising smallholder farmer organisations, such as cooperatives and unions, so that they can start gathering essential data at scale. The recently released AgUnity Coop Manager, in combination with the AgUnity Field Apps and the Cropslist marketplace solution, are a significant step in this direction. These tools will enable farmer organisations to manage their operations more efficiently, gather reliable data, and meet the increasing information demands from buyers.
Digitisation of smallholder farmer value chains is an essential step towards achieving global food security and sustainability. By supporting smallholder farmer organisations to digitise their operations and comply with the EU Deforestation Regulation and Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, we can help them to access markets, earn a livelihood, and contribute to a more sustainable food system.
We can create a brighter future for smallholder farmers and for the planet. Let's seize this opportunity and work together to digitise smallholder farmer value chains.
We need to work together to accelerate the digitisation of smallholder farmer value chains. This will require investment in digital infrastructure, the development of innovative digital solutions, and the training of major stakeholders, including smallholder farmers, on how to use these solutions effectively.
By working together, we can create a more equitable and sustainable food system for all.
(1) FAO in North America. (2021). Challenges and Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers in Global Value Chains.
(2) The World Bank. (n.d.). Agriculture Finance & Agriculture Insurance.
(3) Solidaridad Network. (2021). Solidaridad and Rabobank make carbon markets work for smallholder farmers.