Farmer2Market puts technology in hands of South African farmers

The European Union, in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs, together with Solidaridad, LIMA Development Foundation and ICCO are proud to announce the launch of the SWITCH Africa Green, Farmer2Market programme. At the centre of the SWITCH Africa Green, Farmer2Market programme is the ambition to unlock access to market opportunities for smallholder farmers. The programme will also support emerging farmers with the development of digital solutions to enhance the agricultural value chain.

In 2016, Solidaridad Southern Africa established the South African Smallholder Farmer’s Market Access Platform together with a number of social partners including World Wildlife Fund. The multi-stakeholder platform congregated all the key market actors and stakeholders such as farmer organizations, major retailers, government, finance institutions, development partners and academia and seeks to address challenges that smallholder producers face in accessing formal markets.

Good Agricultural Practices

These stakeholders jointly concluded that the current emerging producer support initiatives are too fragmented, necessitating a more integrated approach where issues related to sustainable production, quality and food safety, commercialization and market access could be addressed collaboratively and concurrently. The dialogues at the Smallholder Farmers’ Market Access Platform resulted in the development of the Farmer2Market Project whose primary objective is to help capacitate emerging producers with Good Agricultural Practices within their farming operation. This approach will help to create a market-oriented environment and produce quality yields that the retail, fresh produce and agro-processing market can absorb.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that more than 814 million people in developing countries are undernourished. Of these people, 204 million live in countries of sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa. This is a clarion call to have a hard look at how food is produced and it makes the need for inclusive production urgent. South Africa’s unemployment rate of 26.5% is at a 14-year high with agriculture playing an essential role in the South African economy, representing 2% of total GDP and an absorber of the labour force.

Farming & Business Solution Apps

This sector has immense opportunity to grow by embracing new technology solutions, such as smart farming through agriculture based apps, Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics. While these technologies have long been available for commercial farmers, they are yet to be used in smallholder farms. With technology being a major enabler in how agricultural activities are going to expand on the continent, two Applications (Apps) will be used on this project namely “Farming Solution” and “Business Solution” to increase efficiency, quality of yield and gather actionable insights about smallholder operations.

The Apps are designed to meet the smallholder producer at their point of need. The Farming Solution App has been developed to help farmers make everyday farming decisions from an informed perspective by giving agricultural insights which helps producers produce better. The primary objective of Farming Solutions is incentivizing the farmer to follow all the Good Agricultural Practices such as the correct use of fertilizers and sprays, as well as to advise farmers on good harvesting techniques relating to specific crops that will ultimately help farmers reach their expected yield.

Market players find it a challenge to work with smallholder producers due to their lack of a credible track record. This is the challenge that the Business Solution App is designed to address by incentivizing farmers to keep necessary records like a farm diary and financial records, which is the biggest deterrent to farmers from accessing finance and better markets. Business Solution will help smallholders to move beyond subsistence farming and start operating their farm like a business.

Professional and successful small farms

These sustainability apps, among others, promote quality and safety assurance benchmarks, adapted to smallholder conditions and support the business transition of smallholder farmers. The insights gathered via these digital solutions will help the farmer identify specific areas of improvement through data recording and will help farmers to further improve social, environmental and food safety compliances, as well as help multiple stakeholders engage better with smallholder farmers.

The SWITCH Africa Green, Farmer2Market programme will run for three years. The programme is in the process of recruiting 750 farmers from Limpopo, KZN, North West, Eastern Cape and Gauteng, who will be set on moving towards greater market compliance and market access. The selection criteria for the programme are that applicants must have no less than one hectare of land with irrigation, availability of fencing, existing interaction/ linkage with the market and a possibility of expanding the enterprise.

Learn more about the Farmer2Market programme.