A fact-based view of smallholder farmers in the ‘last mile’

Updated: Mar 12



The Gapminder organisation does a fantastic job of educating the world about international development. They survey a range of different populations including industry experts, students, governments and the general population, with multiple-choice style quiz questions, to demonstrate common misconceptions we have about the world and the challenges we face relating to the advancement of humanity.

The point of all of this is to encourage us to take a more fact-based view of the world because if we don’t know where we are now, what we have achieved in the last 10 years and how we have achieved it, then how can we know what is possible in the next 10 years and how to achieve it?

At AgUnity, we are working on eradicating poverty through technology, connecting ‘last mile' smallholder farmers and rural communities, enabling financial inclusion through the provision of digital identity and digital proof of income and assets, driving more profitable, sustainable and resilient agricultural practices. Thus, we have come up with five Gapminder style questions that anyone working with (or interested in) smallholder farmers or eradicating poverty strategies, can test themselves with. Ultimately, the purpose is to arm ourselves with the knowledge of how much progress the world has made, whilst also acknowledging what still needs to be done. Shall we begin?


1. What percentage of the world’s poorest 3 billion people rely on smallholder farming as their primary source of income?

a.Less than one third

b.About half

c.More than two thirds

Although the percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty (as in, earning less than $1.90 per day) has decreased significantly from 30% in 2000 to less than 10% today, there are still about 3 billion people that live on $6 per day or less. Over two-thirds of this population rely on smallholder farming for their main source of income (over two billion people). That is a considerable number of people who can benefit products or services aimed at making smallholder farming more profitable.


2. How is the number of smallholder farms in low-income countries changing?

a.Increasing

b.Staying the same

c.Decreasing

Farm consolidation, technology adoption and economies of scale have led to the increase of farms size in high-income countries, however, in low-income countries and amongst smallholder farms (typically less than two hectares), average farm sizes have been decreasing. This is driven by the division of land when passed down from parents to children and means that the total number of smallholder farms is increasing. These smallholder farms can often be more productive per hectare and sustainable than large corporate farms however, they are also much more labour-intensive.



3. What percentage of labour on smallholder farms in Africa is provided by women?

a.30% b.50%

c.70%


Women make up the majority of the labour force on farms in Africa (approximately 70%), however many countries and regions still have laws excluding women from land ownership. Across the world, only 15% of agricultural land holdings are owned by women. In many cases, land that is owned by men is tended to by women while the men attempt to pursue other avenues of income in the nearest town or city. However, this approach severely limits the ability of these women to get the most out of the land as they cannot use the land to secure capital or sell crops from the land without the consent of the owner. In fact, it is estimated that if women were able to be recognised as landowners by financial institutions and markets it would result in improved smallholder farm yields by 20-30% and reduce hunger by up to 17%.



4. What percentage of the world’s population lives within the coverage of a mobile broadband network?


a.Less than 50%

b.70%

c.More than 90%


Additional infrastructure provision over the five-year period from 2014 to 2019 has increased the percentage of the world’s population within the coverage of a mobile broadband network from 75% to 93%. Despite this, only 34% of the rural population in low and middle-income countries own a smartphone. The key barriers to smartphone adoption in this population segment are price (of the phone and the data plan), a lack of digital literacy and the inexistence of relevant digital agriculture applications. In short, smartphones and apps have not yet been designed specifically for smallholder farmers or rural populations in developing countries.


5. Over the 5-year period from 2013-2018, how did the number of registered mobile money accounts change?

a.Increased by 50%

b.More than doubled

c.More than quadrupled


Financial inclusion for smallholder farmers and rural populations in low-income countries is widely discussed as a key to enabling people to elevate themselves out of poverty. Tools such as crop insurance, micro-finance, online savings accounts and the ability to send and receive money online would prove very valuable to this population segment, however, access to these things becomes very difficult without legal forms of identification, proof of land ownership or record of income. This is why it is encouraging to see the increase in registered mobile money accounts by over 400% from 2013 to 2018, which indicates that smartphone adoption and innovative fintech applications will play a significant role in overcoming the barriers to financial inclusion.

So, how many did you get?

With this fact-based view of smallholder farming, we can deduce the following: smallholder farming is both a huge and growing market with significant opportunity to drive positive social and environmental impact, as well as achieve great business success for those with the right solutions. Additionally, we know that technology innovation and infrastructure provision has made it possible to connect with almost all smallholder farmers and rural communities and that there is significant demand for it.


However, there are still barriers to technology adoption that need to be addressed in order to facilitate solutions to some of the biggest challenges that smallholder farmers face.


If you would like to learn more about how we at AgUnity are addressing these barriers, feel free to get in touch at info@agunity.com!



Sources: 1. Statistics relating to poverty used are from the World Bank and have been collated by Our World In Data and Gapminder; 2. The FAO has published a number of reports relating to the number of smallholder farms and land sizes; 3. the World Economic Forum wrote the following article relating to women farmers and their lack of land rights (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/03/women-farmers-food-production-land-rights/); 4. GSMA has released a number of reports relating to the use of smartphones and mobile internet including the ‘State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2020’; 5. GSMA release statistics relating to the use of mobile money accounts

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