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mAgri Programme Aims to Benefit 2 Million Farmers in Developing Countries by 2013

The GSMA, the body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, today announced at the inaugural mAgri Working Group in Cape Town, the launch of the mFarmer Initiative Fund, supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Fund will encourage mobile communications service providers, in partnership with other public and private sector agriculture organisations, to use mobile communications to provide information and advisory services to smallholder farmers in developing countries living on under US$2 per day. The mFarmer Initiative Fund, which is part of the GSMA's Mobile Agriculture (mAgri) Programme, will be available over a period of two years.

"There are over 2.3 billion people living on less than $2 day, a large number of whom are rural smallholder farmers in developing countries and who face many issues which inhibit their agricultural productivity and limit their incomes," said Chris Locke, executive director, GSMA Development Fund. "Through the mFarmer Initiative Fund, the GSMA Development Fund's mAgri Programme will accelerate the provision of high-quality agricultural information services through mobile and by 2013 we aim to provide two million farmers in developing countries with an invaluable and transformative business resource."

The GSMA Development Fund accelerates economic, environmental and social evolution through mobile technology. Within the Development Fund, the mAgri Programme exists to catalyse the deployment of mobile solutions benefiting the agriculture sector. To date, focus has been on engagement with mobile operators and their partners to prove the market opportunity of agricultural extension services through mobile to smallholder farmers and to understand which business models are most suitable.

Improvement in agricultural productivity directly increases food security and income of the agricultural population. Food security occurs when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Currently, African agricultural output stands at a meagre 56 per cent of the world's average. The impact of this shortfall is enormous and can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including a lack of access to vital agricultural information, as well as training and advice on topics such as pests and diseases, weather and proven farming practices.

Mobile technology offers new, cost-effective and scalable solutions to address these challenges. In developing countries, access to mobile phones is growing dramatically even amongst those at the base of the economic pyramid, providing a new and powerful channel of communication and the ability to link previously excluded rural communities to up–to-date information.

mFarmer Initiative Fund

The mFarmer Initiative Fund is designed to:

Stimulate the development of mobile phone-enabled agriculture information and advisory services that are commercially sustainable;
Build services that impact farmers' income and productivity;
Reduce the barriers for operators to launch and improve mFarmer Services;
Test and prove models for delivering agricultural information services via mobile phones; and
Promote a culture of knowledge sharing in the mFarmer ecosystem.

The mFarmer Initiative Fund will support projects implemented in South Asia (India) and Sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia). Whilst these are the target countries for disbursements, the mFarmer Initiative has the wider scope of sharing learnings with the mFarmer ecosystem. Disbursement decisions are made on a competitive, deadline-driven basis by an independent assessment panel. Grant recipients will have access to relevant agricultural information via an on-line database. Technical assistance will be provided to support the design and implementation of projects.

Eligible projects can qualify for funding if they can demonstrate the following criteria:

The project will involve a mobile communications service provider in partnership or consortium with one or more organisations that are using, or planning to use, mobile communications to provide agricultural information and advice to poor smallholder farmers;
The project will include the use of the mobile communications channel as a significant element of its delivery model;
The project will directly result in significantly increased access to affordable agricultural information and advisory services by smallholder farmers who are living on under US$2 per day;
The agricultural information and advisory services will provide information and advice of sufficient relevance, range and quality to be of utility to smallholder farmers;  
The project will involve a commercial business model for the provision of agricultural information and advisory services that will be sustainable after the period of grant funding; and
The project will demonstrate how it will provide equitable access to female smallholder farmers.

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning 219 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world's mobile operators, as well as more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies, and media and entertainment organisations. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Congress.


CAPE TOWN, South Africa, June 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --