Vodacom has partnered with German-based entities to launch a R21m mobile technology platform for small farm owners.

The group said its three year partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Government and Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions, would support SA’s smallholder farmers with mobile software services.

Named the "connected farmer" technology platform, its aim is to link thousands of smallholder farmers with potential buyers and partners including small and commercial agribusinesses, nongovernmental organisations and farmer associations.

Vodacom Business CEO Vuyani Jarana said digitising the agricultural value chain meant that smallholder farmers would benefit from access to information and markets.

"Vodacom and its partners will enable this while reducing some of the risks carried by agribusinesses. Vodacom’s ICT services enable enterprises to have real time visibility of their supply chains, as well as the ability to engage and communicate with smallholders directly," he said.

According to Vodacom, food security in SA remains a challenge, with just 30,000 commercial farmers being responsible for most of the country’s food production. More than 200,000 smallholder farmers and an estimated 2-million subsistence farmers have an important role to play in food security and poverty reduction, yet their access to markets, information and finance is limited or nonexistent.

There is also a lack of available data on smallholder farmers and their supply chains, which is a barrier to informed decision-making by agribusinesses and policy makers, said Vodacom.

A farmer can use any mobile device on any network to access the Connected Farmer’s platform and through SMS receive valuable information including weather forecasts and market prices.

Christiane Kalle, GIZ country director for SA and Lesotho, said German development co-operation viewed technology solutions as having huge potential to support smallholder farmers in the commercial agriculture segment through linking farmers and agribusinesses to potential buyers and services.

"At the same time, we find that producing agricultural goods sustainably and at high quality is key to the farmers’ success. With this initiative, we address both of these challenges and expect significant employment effects," she said.

© Business Day

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