With over two billion people in the world living in smallholder settlements and depending on agriculture as their main source of income, boosting agricultural productivity has never been more important. However, for smallholder farmers in the developing world, a number of barriers stand in the way. These are lack of access to relevant market information and local and timely agronomic and weather information, continued use of inefficient farming techniques, lack of access to finance for investment in better agricultural technology and equipment and inefficient distribution, transport and storage systems. All of these challenges represent missed opportunities for farmers to generate meaningful income for their families.
As the most ubiquitous ICT platform in the developing world, mobile offers a unique opportunity to address this knowledge and information gap for farmers. Agricultural Value-added Services (Agri VAS) delivered over voice (e.g. IVR, helplines), text channels (SMS and USSD) and, increasingly, rich media (online content and apps), provide much-needed information on agricultural practices, market prices and marketplace services and local weather forecasts. By transforming the mobile phone into a productivity tool for smallholder farmers, Agri VAS can generate positive socio-economic change. For the mobile industry, these services are a way to target the fast-growing rural segment more effectively.