In developing countries, many smallholders have no access to appropriate farming knowledge, technologies or commercial markets. Partially as a result of their limited production volumes, smallholders often suffer from weak links to both input and output markets. Linking smallholder farmers to agribusinesses will enhance their capacity to improve the quality and quantity of the produce they offer, leading to increased income. On the input side, use of machines for plowing, sowing or harvesting is often too expensive. Lack of storage forces smallholders to sell their products quickly after harvest, when prices may be low. These constraints, in turn, can lead to an uneven distribution of income and profit among contributors along the value chain.
The rapid rise of mobile phone use across the world presents smallholder farmers with a wide range of new opportunities, such as easier access to farming advice and market information. Modern communications technology has the potential to offset some of the problems encountered in developing countries from deficient infrastructure systems. For this reason, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is developing several mobile communication products, both directly for smallholders and to help food companies buy from them.
Furthermore, the SFSA has developed commercially viable business models to facilitate access to a range of agricultural services from production to market, including input and output ‘hubs’. Machinery rental options form a part of these business models. Greater mechanization enables farmers to raise productivity, reduces drudgery, and frees up time for additional off-farm employment. The services also cover training on agronomy and compliance with the quality standards required for access to more lucrative markets, input buying and output sales.
The business models are based on empowering rural entrepreneurs to fulfill the needs of the farming community. SFSA identifies needs and develops scalable solutions which are delivered by rural entrepreneurs on a commercial basis. Entrepreneurs are identified, trained and linked to value chain players to provide services and build businesses in their communities. The fully integrated business models enable smallholders to sustainably achieve higher yields and increase their profit. The business models entail the following benefits:
Building capacity by providing advisory services on agricultural production systems and marketing
Better access to mechanization in a timely manner for land preparation and harvesting
Augmented productivity and quality of produce through access to quality inputs, technologies and post-harvest handling
A more efficient value chain as a result of linking smallholders to markets
Enhanced access to services thanks to mobile phone technology
Improvement in income, employment generation and livelihoods