The mobile phone is in many ways more valuable in Africa than it is in developed countries, simply because of its power in transforming peoples’ everyday lives. Development in Africa has traditionally been hampered by a lack of infrastructure (basic roads, transport links etc), and ineffective communications. The humble mobile phone is a way of circumventing these barriers. It is proving hugely effective as a means of a mass-communication tool, and in no area is this more prevalent than in agriculture, traditionally one of the most important areas in African life.
Mobile phones are giving farmers access to vital information about the quality and availability of crops before they travel long distances to buy them, saving people time and money. Mobile SMS alerts can also warn farmers of outbreaks of animal diseases, floods and other natural disasters – allowing farmers extra time to prepare for the event. M-Farm is another SMS based system service that gives farmers access to market prices.
Kenya’s iCow has had a huge uptake, and allows farmers to register livestock through their mobile phone and receive information on livestock gestation periods and health advice.
Agriculture is vital to the continent’s future, but when you consider that 80% of arable land is not being used, there is clearly a long way to go. Mobile phones are a way in which farmers can improve their productivity, and protect their land and livestock. In addition, technology contributes around 7% to the continent’s GDP, which is above the Global Index, so there are plenty of opportunities for the Technology and Agricultural industries to work together in improving farmers’ lives.