Can technology help family famers in the developing world?
The story of Coconut farmers in the Philippines does offer answers to this question. Philippines has more than 3.5 million coconut farmers and most of them are communal farmers.
Most abject poverty in the world is concentrated in farming communities, and technology can open up new opportunities for family farmers. While more than 90% of farms are run by an individual or a family and they produce about 80% of the world's food occupying around 70-80% of farm land.
In the Philippines, where mobile penetration is 50 percent and agriculture is the second biggest employer in the country at 27 percent, poverty incidence among farmers has averaged at 38 percent within the last decade. It is even higher for smallholder coconut farmers.
Challenges faced by Coconut farmers in Philippines
The following sample challenges were enumerated :-
- First is low productivity: farm-holdings are passed down from generation to generation and agricultural practices are inherited; the propensity to adopt more optimal techniques is low even though they may receive training.
- Second is the lack of access to financial services and to larger markets, especially for farmers in mountainous and hinterland regions.
- Third is the often devastating effects of extreme weather and climate-related pest and disease outbreaks. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan wiped out 33 million coconut trees in the Philippines, destroying the livelihoods of one million families; three years later, one of the strongest El Ninos struck, causing droughts that dramatically reduced yields and spread hunger among farmers.
- And, in 2014, the Coconut Scale Insect, commonly known as “Cocolisap,” infested more than a million coconut trees around Central Luzon.
Farmer Link : a solution for Coconut Farmers in Philippines
FarmerLink is a mobile solution for enabling coconut value chain in the Philippines. FarmerLink was created by the Grameen Foundation combines satellite data and farm data collected by mobile-equipped field agents to help coconut farmers increase productivity, deal with crop pests and diseases, and increase the sustainability of their farms.
Due to disease outbreaks in some coconut provinces in the Philippines, the FarmerLink was initiated as it combines satellite data and farm data collected by mobile-equipped field agents to predict and detect threats from climate-sensitive pests and disease. The FarmerLink will send warnings over their mobile phones. This is an example of an early warning intervention.
The video overview of the FarmerLink
Video credit: Grameen Foundation
In the pilot duration of the project, nearly 7,500 coconut farmers are receiving regular SMS with practical advice to improve their farming and cash management. Field agents have also compiled complete profiles on 1,600 coconut farmers who will now receive intensive one-on-one farm advisorship.
The FarmerLink Partnership
FarmerLink partners include Grameen Foundation, Philippines Coconut Authority (a government agency); Franklin Baker, the country’s largest coconut exporter; Nutiva, a U.S.-based producer of organic foods; People’s Bank of Caraga, and technology and data companies, including a satellite company.