Globally, over 1 billion people are employed in agriculture17 and 22 million in food and drink industries.18 The majority of these people are small-scale farmers in developing countries. Smallholder farmers account for 60%19 of agriculture worldwide – and through an estimated 500 million20 smallholder farms they support a third20 of humanity. Many of these farmers are isolated in remote communities, with minimal transport, communications infrastructure or access to basic financial services.
Given the scale of production undertaken by smallholders, we have included shortlisting criteria (see page 33) and metrics (see page 35) in our research methodology that specifically concentrate on identifying opportunities to improve their outputs and income. This focus on smallholder farmers means the quantified benefits from the opportunities outlined in this report are most relevant for developing markets and small-scale farming. But this does not mean that mobile-enabled solutions do not have a role to play in supporting efficiency and sustainability for agriculture in commercial farming and developed markets. Further research on the most beneficial solutions for larger farms and developed markets is required to understand what is most needed.
For some of the opportunities, it was not appropriate or possible to quantitatively model one or more of these impacts – this is made clear in the findings where relevant. The potential to reduce food loss was considered for each opportunity but not modelled quantitatively due to a lack of data for some of the services and in some of the countries within the scope of the research. This report presents a first step in looking at the synergies between the agriculture and mobile communications sector. It is anticipated that these 12 solutions will be adapted into a wider range of applications, beyond those considered in the scope of this report, as mobile operators better understand the needs of agricultural businesses and workers, and awareness of the functionality and limitations of mobile technology increases.