The mFarmer Initiative: USAID joins hands with others for Ag. Devt.

Photo Credit: USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and GSMA have launched a global initiative to facilitate the rapid scaling of the use of mobile phone networks to provide poor farmers with valued agricultural information.

The mFarmer Initiative aims at developing a global, shared database of digital agricultural information; a challenge fund to promote innovative partnerships between operators and public or private agriculture extension service providers; technical assistance; sharing of best practices; and impact evaluation.

At a recent webinar organized by USAID to introduce the mFarmer initiative, Judy Payne, the ICT Advisor for USAID’s EGAT and Africa Bureaus reiterated the interest of USAID in supporting agriculture in the developing nations through the Feed the Future (FTF) program. She explained that the selected countries for the mFarmer initiative in Africa are priority countries for the FTF program. According to Judy Payne, USAID is a partial funder together with BMGF. She strongly encouraged USAID missions and implementing partners working in Africa to take full advantage of the opportunity given the funding from the agency and the importance of the initiative to help increase productivity and income of smallholder farmers. She cited the involvement of one of USAID’s FTF implementing projects for Africa as a partner in submitting an application during the first round of the Challenge Fund.

The mFarmer initiative has an ambitious vision of success to help about 2.2 million poor farmers in developing countries increase their productivity and incomes by receiving actionable, high quality, relevant and timely information and advice through mobile phone service networks by 2015. These services are delivered via sustainable and scalable business models without on-going donor support and reflect significant private sector investment. They complement other delivery channels, reflect feedback from farmers, and are based on a growing body of shared digital agricultural content.

The introduction to the mFarmer initiative webinar, which was the first in series of webinars to focus on the initiative, was attended by over 40 participants across the globe. Other presenters at the session include Smith Fiona, mAgri Program Director, GSMA Development Fund, and Natalia Pshenichnaya, mAgri Business Development Manager, GSMA Development Fund. Access to the recorded presentation of  this webinar could be found here.

Also, an upcoming online forum to initiate discussion around the types of partnerships that are conducive to creating sustainable and scalable mobile information and advisory services for farmers will be help between November 21st and December 1st at e-Agriculture website. Subject Matter Experts to help lead the discussion include:

  • Sharbendu Banerjee, Director of Business Development, CABI South Asia-India
  • Hillary Miller-Wise, Country Director, TechnoServe Tanzania
  • Collins Nweke, Project Manager, Tigo Tanzania
  • Judy Payne, ICT Advisor, USAID
  • Fiona Smith, Director, GSMA mAgri Program
  • S. Srinivasan, CEO, IKSL

GSMA, is an association of 800 mobile operators serving over 95 percent of the market in developing countries. It helps its members adopt new approaches to provide valued information and services to their customers. In 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) made a grant to GSMA to catalyze mobile operators’ investment in these innovative mobile services, evaluate their impact, and facilitate experimentation with sustainable and scalable delivery models.

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