Apr 09 2020

How mobile messaging can support the world’s largest business

Food, glorious food. Until fairly recently, many of us had been living under the assumption that we could just roll up to the supermarket and pick up whatever we fancied at almost any time. In the developed world many children simply are not aware of the food supply chain and what really goes into creating the produce that seems to appear if by miracle on dinner tables each evening. We suspect that this might be changing a little now though…

Research studies have repeatedly shown that a quarter of city-dwelling children have never seen a cow and have never come face-to-face with sheep either. As well as this, one in four haven’t been to a farm, seen a tractor or seen a chicken in real life. It isn’t like this for much of the world’s population though who live beyond urban areas.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates there are more than 570m farms worldwide. Yes, you read that right. 570 million. We could never have imagined the figure would be so high either.

More than 90% are run by an individual or family and rely primarily on family labor. Agriculture remains an important source of income and the world’s largest business. One-third of the economically active population obtains its livelihood from agriculture. In Asia and Africa, millions of small-scale and subsistence farmers, pastoralists and fishermen produce most of the food consumed worldwide, in most cases on very small plots of land. An important fact is that it has been found time and again that small farms are more productive than larger ones.

Given these millions of small farms produce about 80% of the world’s food, the importance of the role they play for the benefit of the world today is undeniable. The staggering fact is that the World Bank says that food production around the world must rise by half in the next 30 years to feed a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050. Farms therefore have an increasingly huge burden in our near futures to carry.

This army of small farmers will be key to fulfilling this requirement but many lack funds and are insecure. Anything that can be done to help farmers extract the most from their land and get it to market as rapidly as possible will help reduce the 3,000 tons of food that is wasted every minute globally. Yes, minute.

Mobile messaging has a real role to play in improving the situation and here are just some of the ways SMS can help to achieve this:

– Weather alerts: a lack of rain or excessive amounts of precipitation within a short timeframe can destroy crops and endanger livestock. Being alerted to any inclement weather pattern heading their way could literally save lives and livelihoods

– Market price and harvest alerts: traders can keep farmers promptly informed of any change in market prices and notify them of any unexpectedly low/high harvests expected for particular crops, helping farmers time their trips to market

– Transportation cost and time alerts: transportation is a key variable cost for farmers so knowing its current cost and the travel time required when comparing routes is of huge benefit

– Market demand and supply alerts: farmers want to only cultivate those crops which are in demand so anything that can be done to let them know what and the quantity required will both increase their revenues and decrease wastage

Forewarned really is forearmed.