Digital solutions for better yields

Combining technology for remote crop monitoring with rewards-based incentives programs is helping smallholder farmers achieve better crop yields across Southern Africa.

Snapshot of satellite crop imagery

Bridging the digital divide for smallholders

Digital solutions serve as powerful tools across different sectors, yet the smallholder sector seems to be lagging behind. As part of our quest to bridge the yield gap between commercial and smallholder farmers, we have added another tool to our Digital Solutions toolkit. 

As of October 2019, we are now able to track and monitor the health of our beneficiaries’ crops using satellite imagery. This tool will not only increase our efficiency in resolving the gap but it will make it easier for us to prevent poor yields as we will be able to provide specialized assistance in real time. We have also developed an ability to recognize good practices and offer tangible rewards to farmers on our Z’wardy app. Z’wardy is a rewards platform that recognizes and rewards farmer practices.

Graphic of the Zwardy app from Solidaridad brochure

How it works

Incentivizing behavior change through rewards may lead to faster adoption of improved farming practices, and it also gives the farmer autonomy to make decisions for his or her business. The Z’wardy service is available to farmers who possess a Solidaridad Farmer QR code ID, which is issued by our extension staff after registering the farmer and mapping their fields using the ODK Collect app. Once the farmers are registered, their information is captured in our system and this allows us to receive satellite imagery of their farm. 

With this information, we observe the plant’s greenness and biomass every two weeks and analyse the status of vegetation using the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a numerical indicator that uses two bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to measure the reflection and absorption of vegetation on the ground respectively. 

Measuring for success

We are currently observing data from the beginning of the 2018 growing season, which will help us build a time series that we can use to set a benchmark and prediction of crop specific yields.  The predictions, which need to take place at the beginning of a growing season, will be able to determine when the crops will flower and when they will produce seeds. Moreover, since the tool is linked to Farmer IDs, this will also make it easier for us to observe smallholders’ farming practices and allow us to offer timely assistance that is unique to their challenges and the crops they are farming. This facilitates assessments of the farmers’ performance and participation in the rewards program on our Z’wardy app. 

>Read more about our work in Southern Africa