The GSMA mAgri Programme forges partnerships between mobile operators, technology providers and agricultural organisations. Although it has enourmous potential, Mexico seems to have been left out by ICT for agriculture initiatives. This article presents seven reasons for which Mexican agriculture should invest in ICT related projects to lift farmers out of poverty and into the 21st century.
1. The needs of Mexican farmers are huge
3.9 million farmers out of 5.3 million in Mexico earn of less than USD 1,000 per year. 61 per cent of Mexican farmers live in poverty. The reasons for this certainly include insufficient linkages with markets, low productivity and limited access to financing.
2. Farmers should have access to quality information and knowledge
According to the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA) “Knowledge, research and technological development have not been fully translated into innovations to increase productivity in the food industry because they are not linked effectively with the demands and needs of the farmers."
3. The impacts of ICT for agriculture have been proven
Farmer's access to information could help them put the right price for their produce, get connected to new buyers, get updates on weather, and gain access to financial services. Farmers could also have access to new farming techniques to increase their productivity and improve the quality of their produce.
4. Good connections in rural areas
60 per cent of people living in rural areas have access to a mobile phone in Mexico, most of them being basic mobile phones. According to the GSMA, by the end of 2015 36 per cent of the Mexican population had subscribed to mobile broadband services (3G and above), up from seven per cent in 2010. Another important fact is that 59 per cent of the population, or over 70 million people, are covered by a mobile broadband network but don´t subscribe.
5. High literacy
Mexico has a literacy rate of 93 per cent and the great majority of Mexican people speak and read Spanish.
6. Available quality research for content development
7. A nascent and active ‘ICT for agriculture’ community
In Mexico there are several other ICT initiatives that have emerged to provide quality information and knowledge to farmers. For example, SAGARPA and the Ministry of Economy have set up a phone number to give farmers access to market price information. Also, SAGARPA recently released three mobile apps for farmers: Sagarpa Apoyos, Sagarpa Produce and Sagarpa Mercados, whose objectives are to connect farmers with buyers, help them with their crops, and provide information about SAGARPA programs.
Farmers’ needs are huge and the positive impacts of ICT for agriculture are proven. Despite the many challenges and barriers, the context has been increasingly favourable for the deployment of ICT for agriculture projects in Mexico. As we have seen, there are many reasons for which Mexican agriculture should invest on ICT for agriculture projects.