Basis of analysis: Mobile information platform The modelling was completed for smallholder farms of two hectares or less and assumed a high rate of adoption of mobile information platforms. The analysis of potential water savings was undertaken for countries that are likely to experience water stress and assumed a fixed percentage saving on agricultural water use.
In practice: Vodafone provides mobile information service for farmers in Turkey Vodafone is helping 350,000 farmers in Turkey increase the productivity of their farms by providing agricultural information via SMS text messages to subscribers. The ‘Vodafone Farmers’ Club’ service provides customised alerts including information on the weather, crop diseases and infection risks, agricultural rules and regulations, marketplace prices for products, agricultural donations and free invitations to fairs.
Subscribers to the service also benefit from discounted handsets, free health checks and accident insurance, and discounts on farm machinery. Vodafone Turkey provides the service in partnership with Tarimsalpazarlama.com, which also offers training sessions for subscribers on sustainable agriculture and water awareness. Partnerships with trusted parties such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs help them gather accurate information.
Through mobile information platforms, farmers receive texts with news and information that help to improve the productivity of their land and increase their incomes. Governments and agricultural support organisations can use the platforms to provide information about available subsidies and programmes. There are a number of services providing agricultural information via mobile already available to farmers. One model is for users to pay a monthly fee to subscribe to the information service through their existing mobile tariff. Other models include applying a standalone charge. Farmers register their location and the type of crops they grow so they can receive tailored text alerts specific to their needs. The service providers work with partners such as commodity traders and government meteorological departments to get the most up-to-date and relevant information.
Updates on local weather patterns help farmers plan planting, irrigation and harvesting, while information on market prices and consumer trends helps them choose which crops to plant and to get the best price for their produce. Technical advice can improve farming practices to promote more sustainable agriculture and better hygiene and processing techniques to reduce food wastage. The information service could also cover government regulations and subsidies. Better-informed farmers not only achieve higher productivity but may also save time, which they can use to supplement their income with other employment. As well as improving yields, receiving weather forecasts can help farmers save water because if they know it is likely to rain, they can use less fresh water for crop irrigation. In 2020, better information for farmers could reduce freshwater withdrawals by 6% across the 26 countries included in the scope of this study. The greatest potential for water savings is in countries with expected high uptake of mobile information platforms and high freshwater usage for agricultural purposes (relative to total freshwater availability). The Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Mozambique, India and Lesotho all have the potential to achieve more than 10% savings in total freshwater withdrawals through provision of weather-related information and spread of agricultural best practices through mobile information platforms. Providing this information via mobile could provide additional agricultural income of US$34 billion in 2020, based on an anticipated 116 million farmers using the service. An estimated 1.3 Mt of CO2e could be saved by helping farmers to use better techniques, machinery and products, and use agricultural inputs more efficiently.