U.S. Representative Sam Farr: No reason not to take a hemispheric approach to eliminating poverty

Posted by on January 23rd, 2013 | 0 Comments »
venezuela farmer on a mobile phone cell phone farmer latin america

Photo: AP/Getty Images

At today’s Latin America on the Rise briefing, hosted by Representative Sam Farr, D-Calif., the congressman asked assembled congressional staff, NGO workers, and administration representatives, “Can we use increasing technology and connectivity to reduce poverty? I think we can!”

In a region where 84% of households subscribe to some type of mobile service, 22% of cell phone owners live on one meal per day. But the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region has the potential to produce more than enough food to feed its population and become a larger exporter, based on findings from the 2012 Global Agricultural Productivity Report®. In order to feed nine billion people by 2050, the world will rely on producing regions to supply food to less productive regions like sub-Saharan Africa.

Mobile technology allows farmers to receive best practices and transparent pricing information. When used in conjunction with other mobile technology, like mobile money, rural farmers can enter into contracts and receive payments through their devices, reducing barriers to the agricultural value chain.

Maura O’Neil, USAID chief innovation officer and senior counselor, described a program to allow farmers in India to offer innovative local solutions via mobile videos. Farmers then vote for videos based on the quality of the information. Best practices are voted up; misinformation is pushed to the bottom. “It’s American Idol meets agriculture extension services.” O’Neil said at the Latin America on the Rise briefing today.

In bright spots all over the world, the private sector and the public sector are using mobile technology to send SMS messages to small-scale farmers. The Chilean government sends small-scale farmers daily messages on market prices and weather reports. The International Rice Research Institute provides customized fertilizer application advice to rice growers in the Philippines. For 999 rupees (18 U.S. dollars) a year, farmers in India can receive personalized agricultural information through text messages in their local languages from Thomson Reuters.

Latin America can increase productivity along the entire value chain through mobile technology: providing agronomy and weather information, connecting producers to markets, and facilitating payments.

Learn more about Rep. Farr’s Latin America on the Rise series at www.farr.house.gov.

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