Eighty percent of the population in low-income countries survives on food grown by smallholder farmers, yet many of those farmers are at a disproportionately high risk of poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that limited access to markets, changing demand for food, and restrictions on the movement and gathering of people are only some of the challenges that have impacted the ability of smallholder farmers to thrive.

Mercy Corps, a Cisco nonprofit partner, is using its AgriFin program to provide the resources smallholder farmers need to build resiliency and lift themselves out of poverty.  

AgriFin leverages digital technology to provide products and services to help smallholder farmers increase their productivity, incomes, and resilience. Its technology helps bring critical information directly to smallholder farmers’ digital devices and enables them to access online markets and reach online banking services, among many other tools. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), investment in agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is up to 11 times more effective in reducing extreme poverty than investment in any other sector. This is because such an investment increases productivity, thereby reducing food insecurity, while also improving the livelihoods of a very vulnerable population.

Since 2012, AgriFin has reached 5.5 million farmers across eight countries through its technology and digital services. 

“We believe that moments of crisis can be moments of transformation,” said Dolapo Olusanmokun, Mercy Corps’ AgriFin technical consultant in Nigeria.

During COVID-19, the use of technology by the Mercy Corps AgriFin program has become increasingly important. It has become the primary means for reaching smallholder farmers with information and access to resources. The organization is, for instance, using new gamification technologies to help reach over 50,000 smallholder farmers with information about safe practices to minimize the disruption to food systems.

As part of its commitment to power an inclusive future for all, Cisco is supporting AgriFin’s Information Services for COVID-19 response. These information services have already reached over 7 million smallholder farmers with critical information through text, radio, TV, and WhatsApp as well as other channels to help them deal with the challenges of the pandemic.

“This is a catalytic moment in which we can leverage our digital tools to accelerate transformational change for food systems and farmers,” said Leesa Shrader, Mercy Corps’ AgriFin program director. 

For more information about Mercy Corps and its partnership with Cisco, click here.


Defeat Poverty

How Technology Powers Smallholder Farmers During COVID-19

By Michaela Browner