Sustaining Smallholder Farmers With Smart Technology
Florence Mbabazi is a smallholder farmer in northern Uganda. On her family farm, Florence runs the farm. She relies on her two teenage children, Joseph and Esther, to help plant, tend to and harvest crops on one hectare of land. For decades, the Mbabazis produced rain-fed maize as a staple to feed their family and sell any surplus yields in their local community.
While they would face unpredictable weather on occasion, they were always able to adapt and overcome temporary setbacks. Over the last five years, however, changing rain patterns and harsh droughts forced the family to switch from rain-fed maize crops — which are too risky to produce in the current climate — to growing new climate-resilient rice varieties instead.
During this transition, the Mbabazi family had to go into debt with local shop owners in order to feed their two children and aging mother. While the family farm’s new rice varieties are more climate-resilient than rain-fed maize, they’ve had to rely on chemical pesticides to contend with pest infestations. In recent years, nearby deforestation has also caused harmful erosion and soil degradation, leaving the farm with compacted, high-salinity soil. The family now has to import expensive chemical fertilizers to improve the available nutrients in the soil. This inevitably exacerbates soil runoff and degradation over time, diminishing the family’s yields year after year.
Without surplus crop yields, the Mbabazi’s can only sustain their own family and remain unable to pay off their debts with local shopkeepers. They struggle to keep up with school fees for Joseph and Esther, and when the time comes to prepare the children for the future, they won’t be able to pay for vocational training for either of them. The devastating effects of climate change keep the Mbabazi family locked in an inescapable cycle of poverty.
How AgTech Helps Smallholder Farmers Like Florence
Unfortunately, the Mbabazi’s situation is far from the exception. Smallholder farmers often operate on less than five hectares of land, but they produce roughly one-third of the global food supply, sustaining some of the most impoverished communities in the world. More than half of the agricultural labor force in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa consists of women like Florence, who often don’t have the same level of access to tools that support production that men do.
Faced with a rapidly shifting climate, smallholder farmers need to become experts at risk management. While those who rely on farming for survival are no strangers to problem-solving, the rate at which our climate is changing makes it impossible to anticipate problems without the aid of advanced technology.
With access to sustainable agricultural technology tools like Dimitra’s platform — and the crop management module within the Dimitra platform — smallholder farmers like Florence and the Mbabazi family can adapt to climate change in real-time. Recommendations based on machine learning can assist Florence in navigating disruptions in familiar seasonal patterns, help her prepare for scarce or erratic rainfall and anticipate shifting seasonal planting and harvest dates in response to changing weather patterns.
By recording information on seed inputs, crop yields and sensor data, she has full control over managing her rice crops and planning for the future. With Dimitra’s innovative drone technology, she can also protect her harvest by using drone footage to help identify and solve specific problems, such as precision-spraying pesticides right where they’re needed. That means she no longer needs to overuse expensive chemical pesticides, which saves the family money and improves environmental conditions within the local ecosystem.
Climate-Resilience and Food Security
Sustainable smallholder agriculture provides a pathway out of poverty. With higher and more diversified yields per hectare, the Mbabazi farm can produce more than the family consumes. By selling surplus crop yields in local communities, they can pay off their debts in three to five years while keeping Joseph and Esther in school and preparing them for vocational training.
Increased household income allows the family to diversify the farm even further. Eventually, they can add livestock to create a self-sustaining system. Livestock management software can help Florence keep track of vaccinations, manage viable breeding programs and ensure that she is rotating livestock through pastures at the correct intervals.
With access to agricultural technology, the Mbabazi family farm can become climate-resilient, not only sustaining their own family, but providing food security and essential nutrition to the community at large. Farmers like Florence and the Mbabazi family need reliable information, allocated funding, and useful recommendations if they are to succeed in the climate crisis.
The Dimitra Token: Sustainable Growth
As the Mbabazis use Dimitra’s platform — and specific modules within it — they accrue Dimitra points. Upon reaching a certain threshold, they can transfer their points into the Dimitra token.
The Mbabazis can use Dimitra tokens to purchase ecosystem services via our marketplace module. If they want to improve soil conditions, for example, they can use our platform to hire a soil specialist, who will come out to the family farm and provide industry-specific expertise, helping them improve soil conditions and increase yields each year.
The Dimitra ecosystem enables them to purchase other cryptocurrencies as well, an ability that, when multiplied across hundreds of thousands of farms in Uganda, has the power to transform not only their village, but the entire region, and ultimately, the nation as well.
With tools like Dimitra’s crop and livestock management modules on their side, smallholder farmers have the means not only to survive, but to thrive in the face of climate change. Across a time period of ten years, farmers like Florence can empower their families, bolster national GDP and mitigate environmental threats. The ripple effect of sustained growth and access to modern technology across developing nations is enormous — and we’re just getting started.