Why it matters
SDG 2 aims to end hunger and to achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. An estimated 820 million people were undernourished in 2018, an increase on previous years. An estimated 2 billion people – more than a quarter of the world’s population – were affected by moderate or severe food insecurity in 2018, with the majority of increases in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
The industry contribution
Mobile technology contributes to SDG 2 through improvements to agricultural practices, nutritional knowledge and household food security. Mobile devices, satellites, drones and other high-tech solutions also contribute to improving the efficiency of the production of agricultural goods. SDG 2 was the second-most improved SDG in 2019 in terms of industry impact, with rural mobile penetration reaching 59% in LMICs. Furthermore, 12% of rural subscribers used mobile agricultural services and 27% used mobile financial services in 2019.
Mobile information services facilitate nutritional needs
Target 2.1: By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
Target 2.2: By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.
Mobile health services enable access to nutritional information, helping to empower people to make better and more informed decisions about nutritional practices in their households. A study of eight services in the GSMA’s mNutrition initiative portfolio found, on average, mobile health services were the only source of nutrition information for one in three users, underscoring the importance of mobile as a key information distribution channel for underserved populations. Mobile health services also led to an improvement in overall nutritional knowledge among users compared to non-users.
In addition, mobile agriculture services provide advisories, such as good agricultural practices and weather forecasts, to smallholder farmers, helping them to increase per-hectare yields. As of 2020, Dialog Sri Lanka’s Govi Mithuru agricultural value-added services (Agri VAS) has reached over 600,000 smallholder farmers. It provides customised and timely advice regarding land preparation, cultivation, crop protection, harvests and family nutrition.
Access to mobile money services can help increase food security for the undernourished, particularly in poor, rural and remote communities. In Côte d’Ivoire, mobile money-enabled international remittances became more frequent during the cocoa harvest season. This meant receiving households had greater access to food, leading to improved nutrition, particularly among children and the elderly.
More efficient agricultural value chains through digital financing
Target 2.3: By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.
Target 2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.
The digitisation of agricultural value chains brings cost reductions and transparency to agribusinesses, cooperatives and smallholder farmers, which streamlines the process of procuring crops in the agricultural last mile. Last-mile tools (e.g. digital records, payments and traceability) and market-linkage tools (e.g. agricultural e-commerce platforms) improve efficiency in agricultural value chains and present an opportunity to formalise the sector, reducing the dependency of farmers on middlemen. Crucially, the digitisation of agricultural value chains enables the creation of economic identities for farmers via digital records, such as mobile money payments from the sale of agricultural produce, leading to full financial inclusion and enabling farmers to access credit and reinvest in their farms.
Mobile operators are already playing a key role in many rural communities, helping to connect previously underserved areas and boosting agricultural productivity by providing farmers with mobile-enabled information services. Operators and mobile money providers also play an important role in bringing to market last-mile procurement tools and agricultural e-commerce platforms. For example, MTN Ghana has launched mAgric, a mobile-based tool that enables the digitalisation of the entire procurement process in the country’s important cocoa sector, which 800,000 smallholder households depend on for their livelihoods. The tool supports farmer registration, data analytics and mobile money payments, serving as an entry point for financial inclusion for unbanked farmers.
There is evidence that mobile money adoption is also playing a key role in improving farmer livelihoods. Mobile money services enabled coffee farmers in Uganda to receive on average 5% higher prices for their produce, as they are able to reach buyers in high-value markets, in addition to their local traders, immediately after harvest. Similarly, in Kenya, users of mobile money had higher profits from banana production and sold a larger proportion of their harvest. This was also linked to their significantly higher amounts of purchased inputs per acre of banana production, as procurement was made easier through mobile money.
Myanmar: driving productivity through the digital marketplace in agriculture
Agriculture represents 38% of Myanmar’s GDP, employs 60% of the active population and uses close to 20% of the country’s land. However, Myanmar’s agriculture sector is not as efficient as it could be because of a lack of agricultural information, which is limiting crop yields, creating a disconnect between buyers and sellers, and generating additional waste due to poor demand projection for agricultural inputs. The lack of information also keeps smallholder farmers in poverty. For comparison, a farmer in Myanmar earns about $1.80–2.50 per day in monsoon season, whereas farmers earn $10.00–16.50 per day in Thailand and $7.80 per day in the Philippines.
Greenovator’s platform provides information for farmers, such as advice for producing better yields, local weather, demand projection and daily prices. The solution also allows traders to identify where to source produce at the right time and provides a way for vendors to project demand for agricultural inputs. Through a partnership with Telenor Myanmar, Greenovator has also gained access to the mobile operator’s SMS gateway. Additionally, in February 2019, Greenovator integrated with Wave Money by Telenor, a payment channel to its marketplace platform.
Greenovator can now verify its users through SMS. This allows users to access their services via Green Boxes, which provide free Wi-Fi access to users in order to download the app and are strategically located at agricultural shops. The payment channel, Wave Money, allows farmers to buy materials for their farms through a mobile phone. As of January 2020, Greenovator has reached over 90,000 users.
Maximising impact by 2030
Enablers that could help maximise the mobile industry’s impact on SDG 2 include the following:
- Establishing plug-and-play access to mobile money, which would significantly reduce the time it takes to link partners.
- Improving education and digital literacy to enable greater use of mobile-enabled services. Often, users from the poorest backgrounds lack the skills needed.
- Enabling greater mobile money adoption in rural areas by supporting KYC procedures and setting appropriate transaction limits to enable agricultural payments. For further information, see Mobile Money Regulatory Index