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Geodata for smallholders

Lately I visited Washington D.C. for the ‘Geodata and ICT for Financial Inclusion and Food Security’ event of ICCO Cooperation and Rabobank Foundation. Technological applications, such as ICT and geodata, offer great potential to improve the production of smallholder farmers. This, in turn, helps reduce the risk profile of those smallholders, which is an important stimulus for financial institutions to provide financial services. This is what we do through G4AW.

Geodata for smallholders

G4AW: Geodata for Water and Agriculture

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up an important program: Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW), executed by the Netherlands Space Office. Within this program, several Dutch consortia are working worldwide on converting geodata into relevant information on climate, weather and hazards for smallholders. ICCO is in the lead of two consortia, of which one is GREENCoffee in Vietnam.

Drought and irregular rainfalls

As a result of climate change, farmers worldwide face excessive rains and prolonged dry seasons. These droughts as well as irregular rainfalls in the Central Highlands of Vietnam tend to be more serious over the last years. Drought conditions have caused widespread production losses on coffee smallholdings. Overall rainfall volume is sufficient for coffee, but uneven yearly distribution means coffee requires more efficient irrigation to continue achieving high yields.

Theoretical yield increases by 2050 with improving irrigation efficiencyScreen Shot 2017-11-06 at 12.27.16.png
Source: People and the Earth, 2017

The number one priority for these coffee farmers is thus to be prepared for unsure weather forecasts and to better plan their production. This is what we do through GREENCoffee.

GREENCoffee: informing farmers on weather and coffee prices

GREENcoffee implements an innovative mobile app, available in the stores since one month, that supports 100,000 coffee farmers in the Central Highlands in Vietnam.
The app relies on geographic and satellite data which are analyzed through Geographical Information Systems. Based on this analysis the service provides specific information on the weather, rain and humidity forecasts. This is important data for farmers on which they can decide whether to water, harvest or spray. This improves the productivity and quality of their coffee and reduces their costs.
Through  the app, farmers can also receive information on daily coffee prices, farming techniques, and pests and diseases. For example, they can take a picture of a diseased coffee plant and send it through the app, and they’ll receive information on what kind of disease it is and how to treat it.

Implementing in other countries

What we do within G4AW makes a difference, but we can create an even bigger difference if we implement this approach in more countries. At this time, G4AW has projects in Asia (Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia) and Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia). There is a world to gain by using this approach, especially in Africa. The continent faces a growing population, and with the effects of climate change multiplying the chances of crop failure and threatening food security, climate resilient agri-food systems, like G4AW, can be part of the solution.

Countries with projects of G4AW​Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 12.32.14.png
Resource: Netherlands Space Office

Unique position and working together

Worldwide, geodata and ICT are being used for various purposes. However, the fact that we in the Netherlands use this to strengthen the position of smallholder farmers worldwide, is very unique in the world. This leads to recognition from various leading international media like SciDev.net, Worldbank and ICT Update.

In GREENcoffee and other G4AW programs, universities, businesses, governments and NGOs join forces to make sure that small farmers get the right information they need. As technology develops rapidly, partners need each other’s expertise to take advantage of the potential it can bring. Cooperation is the key. ICCO is proud to be part of G4AW.

The foundation of the event on geodata and ICT was a report of the Platform for Inclusive Finance (NpM), of which ICCO is a member. The report called ‘Geodata and ICT Solutions for Inclusive Finance and Food Solutions’, contains an overview of the possibilities and challenges of using geodata and ICT to improve agricultural production and access to finance for smallholder farmers.