The Revolution of Mobile Phone-Enabled Services for Agricultural Development (m-Agri Services) in Africa: The Challenges for Sustainability
- What are the current trends and progress in the use of m-Agri services for enhancing agriculture and smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in Africa?
- How can all relevant stakeholders involved in design, development, deployment and use, approach the challenges of m-Agri service(s) for sustainability?
- Are there specific functionalities for the m-Agri services that can enhance sustainability?
- What should the role of the policymakers be in promoting m-Agri sustainability?
2. Conceptualising Sustainability in This Review
- ‘mobile phone application’ AND ‘agriculture development’ OR ‘digital innovation’;
- ‘smartphone application’ AND ‘sustainability’ OR ‘agriculture’;
- ‘mobile or smartphone’ AND ‘farmers’ OR ‘smallholder farmers’ livelihood’;
- ‘agriculture information’ AND ‘farmers’ livelihood development’;
- ‘smart farming’ AND ‘smallholder farmers’ OR ‘m-Agri’;
- ‘mobile application’ AND ‘m-Agri finance’ AND ‘services’;
- ‘mobile application’ AND ‘m-Agri’ AND ‘challenges’;
- ‘ICT for sustainability’ OR ‘ICT4S’ AND ‘ICT for development’ OR ‘ICT4D’;
- ‘Human Computer Interaction for development’ OR ‘HCI4D’ AND ‘sustainability’.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. An Overview of Current Trends in m-Agri Services
4.1.1. M-Agri Financial Services
4.1.2. M-Agri Information and Knowledge Sharing Services
4.1.3. M-Agri Input and Marketing Services
4.2. The Challenges for M-Agri Services in Africa
4.3. Strategies Adopted by Some of the Existing M-Agri Initiatives
4.4. Strategies and Functionalities that can Enhance the Sustainability of M-Agri Services
4.4.1. Designing with the Users in Mind
4.4.2. Analysing and Understanding the Existing Environment
4.4.3. Designing for Scale and Sustainability
4.4.4. Addressing Privacy and Security through Collaboration
4.4.5. Reusing and Improving the Existing Initiatives
4.4.6. Open and Data Driven
4.5. Policy and Governance
4.6. Summary of Key Findings and Recommendations for the Future
Conflicts of Interest
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|Materials Used||Number of Materials||References|
|Peer-reviewed journal articles||26||[13,29,36,64,65,66,67,68,69,70,71,72,73,74,75,76,77,78,79,80,81,82,83,84,85,86].|
|Mobile Apps||Inventor/Founders||Country/Location of Use||Description|
|iCow||Kenyan farmer, Su Kahumbu||Kenya||SMS and voice-only mobile app. Farmers are sent information on the best dairy practices. Allows farmers to register their cows, and to receive individualised text messages on their mobile phones, including advice for veterinary care and feeding schedules, sends prompts to farmers to collect and store milk within the days of a cow’s cycle, a database of experts, and updated market rates on cattle prices [64,87].|
|Vet Africa||A Scotland based tech company—Cojengo, founded by Craig Taylor and Iain Collins in partnership with Microsoft||Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania||An image-based user interface app provides diagnostic tools and disease surveillance data for livestock disease and recommends appropriate medications for farm animals. Helps farmers monitor and record animal data .|
|M-Farm||Kenyans: Linda Kwamboka, Susan Oguya, and Jamila Abass are co-founders||Kenya and Ghana||Delivers price transparency and access to markets. Provides updates to farmers on current prices of goods across the country and a networking platform for farmers to sell their produce wholesale. Connects local farmers directly to suppliers and provides access for farm inputs .|
|Esoko||A team of local and international professional in Ghana||Nine African countries||Connects projects, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), businesses, and the government to farmers. Formerly known as TradeNet provides agricultural content, marketing, advisory, and monitoring services for farmers and potential investors [65,66,67].|
|Agro-Hub||Agro-Hub was developed by a Cameroonian business venture||Cameron||Agro-Hub employs social network, short messaging service (SMS), and the Internet to source, manage and disseminate information on all areas of agriculture [65,113]|
|Agri-wallet||Dodore Kenya Ltd. founded by Ad Rietberg and Sijmen de Hoogh||Kenya||Agri-wallet is a mobile purse that smallholder farmers use to manage their business finances and can borrow money to spend on agricultural inputs such as fertiliser and seeds .|
|Cocoa Link||Developed by Farmerline, which promotes entrepreneurship in partnership with Hershey and World Cocoa Foundation||Ghana||Delivers farming practice information from agricultural experts to farmers in English and local languages at no cost [13,65].|
|Kilimo Salama||Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and Kenyan telecom operator, Safaricom||Kenya||Provides up-to-date and full climate and weather information to farmers and sustainable agricultural practices to increase productivity, ensure food security, and protect their crops during bad weather .|
|Kuza Doctor||Backpack farmers in Kenya||Kenya||Provides access to information on crop growth, soil, and answer to general farming questions to help farmers grow better crops by employing environmentally-friendly practices .|
|Modisar||Agric Software Development Start-up Company located in Gaborone, Botswana||Botswana||Enable farmers to keep and access their farm records, cattle herds, farm costs, and sales. Provides advice to farmers on animal vaccinations, feed, nutrition, and finance .|
|Hello tractor||A team of business entrepreneurs||Nigeria||Provides access to low-cost tractors that farmers can buy or rent using their mobile phones .|
|Haller app||Haller foundation||Kenya||Provide farming instructions to the farmers on how to manage soil fertility and maintain beehives .|
|M-Shamba||M-shamba social enterprise||Kenya||Provide information about crop and poultry management practices for the small-scale farmers. Allows farmers to track farm activities such as their revenues and expenses .|
|WeFarm||Originally created by Kenny Ewan, Claire Rhodes, and Jim Rhodes, and was developed as a pilot project from within the Cafedirect Producers’ Foundation (now called Producers Direct)||Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda||Provides free crop and livestock management practices. Especially advice on how to manage diseases and new practices [69,115].|
|M-Samaki||No details||Kenya||Provides advice on fish farming about how to manage pond health and feed as well as harvest and marketing .|
|Senekela||Established by Orange-Mali||Mali||Provides advice on available agricultural products, weather forecast, and market prices, which allow farmers to market their produce in better conditions and improve their productivity .|
|e-Wallet||Established by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development||Nigeria||Provides information about where and how to buy fertilizer and the exact amount sold, which allows farmers to compare prices .|
|Tigo Kilimo||Provided my mobile network operator Tigo||Tanzania||An agricultural value-added service that provides information for 10 crops through unstructured supplementary service data (USSD), SMS, voice, and helpline for the farmers.|
|EZ-Farm||IBM Research—Africa Dr Kala Fleming||Kenya||Provides farmers with information on facilities for remote farming water management.|
|AgroTech||A programme run by Grameen Foundation and its partners Digital Green||Ghana||Enables the government and private company field personnel to understand and analyse farmers’ needs and crop history quickly and timely, to deliver agricultural advice, and to procure loans to purchase farm supplies such as fertilisers and seeds.|
|Lima Links||SANGONet, a South African NGO, and International Development Enterprises (iDE), with $200,000 in initial funding from the Gates Foundation.||Zambia||Provides a sort of ‘live’ market price information on horticulture and connections to markets for smallholder farmers.|
|AGMIS (Infotrade)||Infotrade||Uganda||Aggregates market price information from 35 major districts in Uganda for 48 agricultural products, trends, and price movements. Price data is collected three times a week, analysed, and disseminated to the farmers.|
|Crowdyvest (Farmcrowdy)||Team of individuals with experience and expertise in information technology management, e-commerce and financial management supported by Syngenta and ASTC (Agricultural Training Centre), Vom and Plateau State Notore Seeds||Nigeria||Supports small farm sponsorship, provides improved seeds, farm inputs, training on modern farming techniques, and also provide a market for the sale of farm produce for farmers.|
|Crop Monitoring Service (CROPMON)||Developed by Geodata for Agriculture and Water Facility, Netherlands with four Dutch and five Kenyan partners||Kenya||CROPMON develops and makes available information that help farmers to make improved farm management decisions during the growing season. The information given is based on real-time satellite imagery informing them of the growth and growth status of their crops.|
|FarmDrive||Rita Kimani and Peris Bosire||Kenya||Connects smallholder farmers to loans and financial management tools through their mobile phones. Closes the critical data gap that prevents financial institutions from lending to creditworthy smallholder farmers.|
|MyAgro (One Acre Fund)||Anushka Ratnayake, One Acre Fund||Mali, Senegal||Helps the farmers save money gradually in smaller amounts to cover the cost of their basic farm needs such as buying seeds, fertiliser, and training.|
|Fertiliser Optimiser Tool (FOT)||CABI’s OFRA programme, funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)||13 countries in Africa||Provides free access to advice on fertiliser use for farmers and extension workers. The app runs in an offline mode allowing users to perform optimisation calculations in the field and utilises data on crops grown, area planted, fertiliser cost, management, and expected crop sales, etc. to calculate the most profitable combinations of fertilisers to use.|
|NARO beans, Common Cassava Diseases & Control, NARO Maize Production||National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)||Uganda||Provides information on: (1) bean cultivation, (2) common cassava diseases and control, and (3) maize production for the farmers.|
|Pannar Sprout||Developed by Pannar Seed, a South African seed group founded in 1958, which is one of the largest field crop seed producers and suppliers in Africa||South Africa and some other African nations||Provides technical advice for grain farmers. A new function has been added, which is known as PlantDr for help with crop diseases.|
|Khula||South African digital company in Randburg||South Africa||Provides mentorship for farmers and connects them to customers, better access to logistics, and source for low cost farm inputs through a group purchase.|
|Agripredict||Developed by three individuals (Patrick Sikalinda, Cassandra Mtine, and Mwiza Simbeye)||Zambia||Provides information that help farmers to identify crop diseases, predict pest infestations, and weather conditions.|
|uLima||uLima Limited||Kenya||Provides access to crop and livestock management information, weather and market price information, and customised crop and livestock calendars for farmers.|
|AgTag||Magazine app||South Africa||Provides written articles, videos, and audio on crops, livestock, equipment, water, and soil management as well as agro-processing.|
|Nuru (Plant Village)||Developed by Penn State University researchers in collaboration with UN FAO and Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Nuru is incorporated into the Plant Village app.||Many African countries||Helps farmers to diagnose crop diseases of crops like cassava, maize, wheat, and potatoes in the field without an Internet connection. The app interfaces with the FAMEWS app to upload data collected from the field. For example, the app help farmers to validate data on fall armyworm to the national fall armyworm focal points and database.|
|RiceAdvice||Developed by AfricaRice and CGIAR under the name RiceAdvice.||22 African countries||Provides farmers with field-specific crop management guidelines for rice production|
|Agrix Tech||No details||Cameroon||Detects crop diseases at a primary stage and proposes treatment with the use of artificial intelligence.|
|Labaroun Kassoua||Labaroun Kassoua in Niger is one of the mAgri services supported by Orange in Africa||Niger||Offers information and advice on agricultural techniques, weather, and access to markets and financial services for farmers.|
|mAgri, Côte d’Ivoire||mAgri in Côte d’Ivoire is one of the mAgri services supported by Orange in Africa||Côte d’Ivoire||Provides information and advice on weather, agricultural approaches, access to markets, and financial services.|
|Naafa Buudu||Supported by Orange in Africa||Burkina Faso||Offers farmers advice on weather, market prices, financial services, and agricultural techniques.|
|Cow Tribe||Cow tribe technology company based in Ghana||Ghana||Provides subscription based and on-demand animal vaccines and other services to last mile farmers.|
|Connected Farmer||Produced by the Connected Farmer Alliance, a public-private partnership between U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Vodafone||Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique||Targets to address the value chain management inefficiencies and increase productivity of both the agribusinesses and the smallholder farmers who supply them.|
|M-Agri Service||Year Launched||App store/Google Play Metrics||Other Data|
|Average Reviewer Score (Max Score = 5)||Number of Reviews||Number of Downloads|
|Esoko||2008||no data||no data||no data|
|M-Farm||2010||no data||no data||no data|
|M-Shamba||2010||4.9||38||100+||Reports 685,460 farmers reached|
|MyAgro||2011||no data||2011||no data||Reports 45,000 downloads|
|Senekela||2014||no data||no data||no data||Reports 37,333 users|
|WeFarm||2014||no data||no data||no data||Reports 1.9 million farmers joined|
|mAgri, Côte d’Ivoire||2014||no data||no data||no data|
|HayVokra (HNI)||2014||no data||no data||no data|
|Bazar.mada||2014||no data||no data||no data|
|M-Samaki||2015||none||no data||no data|
|EZ-Farm||2015||no data||no data||no data|
|Crowdyvest (Farmcrowdy)||2016||3.8||221||50,000+||Reports 25,000 users|
|Cow Tribe||2016||no data||2016||no data||Reports 29,000 farmers in 119 communities|
|Fertiliser Optimiser Tool (FOT)||2016||5||5||1000+|
|Murimi Umlimi||2017||none||0||no data|
|uLima||2017||4.8||29||1000+||Reports 20,000 users|
|Agri-wallet||2018||none||no data||50+||Reports 4000 farmers, 14 suppliers, and 25 buyers|
|Agripredict||2018||no data||no data||22,000|
|Plant Village Nuru||2018||4.4||18||1000+|
|Common Cassava Diseases & Control||2018||none||none||100+|
|NARO Cage Aquaculture||2018||none||none||500+|
|NARO Maize Production||2018||3.7||6||1000+|
|Agrix Tech||2019||no data||no data||n/a|
|Labaroun Kassoua||2011 (SMS)||no data||no data||no data|
|LimaLinks||2011–2013, 2016||no data||no data||no data||Pilot in 2011–2013 scaled up in 2016|
|CROPMON||2015–2019||no data||no data||no data|
|RiceAdvice||c. 2016||4.6||23||1000+||Reports 20,000+ users|
|Modistar||c.2014||no data||no data||no data|
|Vet Africa||no data||3.5||11||1000+|
|Kuza Doctor||no data||no data||no data||no data|
|Haller app||no data||no data||no data||no data|
|AgroTech||no data||no data||no data||no data||Reports 500,687 users|
|AGMIS (Infotrade)||no data||no data||no data||no data|
|Khula||no data||no data||no data||2000+|
|Challenges to Wider Use of M-Agri Services||Opportunities/Potential Remedies||Policy Recommendation|
|Uneven and unsteady electricity power supply for charging mobile phones and Internet access||Provision of solar chargers and infrastructure improvements|
|Uneven network coverage||Improve access in rural and distant regions|
|Cost of subscription to m-Agri services||Free access, low-cost access, sponsorship by NGO, Business, or Government|
|Cost of equipment||Low-cost handsets, or free handsets|
|Failure to understand farmers use of m-Agri services results in underutilisation||Understand the needs of users, content, and language, engage in development needs analysis|
|Accessibility, language, and skills needed for smartphone access||Provide training, understand user’s language, education, and technological skill levels|
|Bridging the research-farmer disconnect||Encourage participatory research involving farmers|
|Trust issues on privacy and data security||Ensuring standards for data privacy and protection|
|Unsustainable business models||Diversified income sources to maintain a long-term impact of the service|
Revenue models that involve institutions covering the cost of marginalised users’ [e.g., smallholder farmers, women, and young people] access to the m-Agri service
|Digital gender divide||Identify and engage with the gatekeepers [husbands, parents]|
Encourage services that are tailored to the needs of women
|Unsustainable practices towards m-Agri service(s)||A sustainable approach to the design, development, deployment and use|
Participatory approach to understand specific and genuine problems
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Emeana, E.M.; Trenchard, L.; Dehnen-Schmutz, K. The Revolution of Mobile Phone-Enabled Services for Agricultural Development (m-Agri Services) in Africa: The Challenges for Sustainability. Sustainability 2020, 12, 485. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020485
Emeana EM, Trenchard L, Dehnen-Schmutz K. The Revolution of Mobile Phone-Enabled Services for Agricultural Development (m-Agri Services) in Africa: The Challenges for Sustainability. Sustainability. 2020; 12(2):485. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020485Chicago/Turabian Style
Emeana, Ezinne M., Liz Trenchard, and Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz. 2020. "The Revolution of Mobile Phone-Enabled Services for Agricultural Development (m-Agri Services) in Africa: The Challenges for Sustainability" Sustainability 12, no. 2: 485. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020485