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Use mobile phones to assist farmers-WB

2nd November 2012
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  Half of rural population now connected
World Bank

The World Bank has advised the government to consider the use of mobile phone technology as a means to deliver assistance to the farmers.

In its economic report titled ‘Spreading the Wings: From Economic Growth to Shared Prosperity’ released in Dar  es Salaam yesterday, the bank said mobile phone use  Tanzania is on the boom, with 50 percent of people in rural areas now connected.
The phone has brought about new methods of conducting business by farmers and other rural dwellers, utilising virtual rather than physical connectivity, the report said.

With mobile phone technology, previously isolated farmers are now only a button away from receiving money or information regarding markets trends and prices, the report said.

"Through the use of mobile technology and consistent with results found in Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda, it has been shown that farmers in Rungwe District have significantly increased their levels of market production," it added.

The farmers have managed to sell at higher prices through the use of cell phones because they have better access to price information and thus bargaining power, the report said.

New technology also enables small farmers to reach out to markets and virtual distance between service providers such as banks, which can be reduced with new communication tools, it said.
The bank further urged the government to assist the farmers by assisting them in entering farming contracts with large scale farmers.

Contracts of these sorts are used to link small holder farmers with large ones since they can obtain cheaper inputs, improved access to modern technologies and use of transportation and marketing previously only available to large farmers.

The report said large scale farmers are far more likely to benefit from higher quality, more stable outputs from small famers in contracts which at the moment involve only 1.4 percent of farmers.

The report, however, said contract farming has produced promising results in the tobacco, and more recently, the cotton sectors.
Citing examples, it said, contracted farmers in the tobacco industry use more chemical fertiliser, receive more credit and have better access to new technologies.

As a result they have been selling more of their produce, thus generating higher incomes, the report added.

The report also suggested that the use of ICT and farm contracts can help to increase the quantitative and qualitative supplies in response to the farmers to improved market access including those who currently survive through subsistence farming.

The success of similar initiatives in India and Sri Lanka has enabled small holder farmers to move out of poverty by creating partnerships between them, wholesalers and service providers, it said.

Multiple taxes to farmers have also seen a challenge which denies their development, the report noted, calling on the government to address it.

There are many multiple non–tariff measures applied on agricultural products, many of them are justified in terms of achieving hygiene and other standards but others are redundant or excessive.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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