From smallholders to agri-preneurs in Myanmar: farmers are taming the digital world with Impact Terra
The In-Venture team
In the last 4 years, mobile possession has quickly taken-off in Myanmar. Prices have dropped and smartphones have become fairly affordable items. Today, the mobile phone penetration is estimated at 80% in the country. Besides, Myanmar went from zero connectivity to a wide 4G network in a very short period of time. People are thus starting to experiment applications like Facebook and to discover the countless possibilities a smartphone can offer.
Impact Terra settled in Myanmar 3 years ago to build on the increasing use of smartphones to serve the country’s most vulnerable populations. The social business has decided to target a significant part of the Burmese population: smallholders who still struggle to make a living due to the use of outdated technologies, the lack of access to markets or to their exclusion from the banking system. The company has designed the Golden Paddy application to help farmers coming to grips with such challenges.
The technological platform provides smallholders with real time information to fill the productivity gap. For instance, farmers receive advices on the most suitable varieties to grow or on weather conditions. This knowledge-intensive platform also serves as a supply chain intermediary. Indeed, it connects farmers to markets where they can sell their product at better prices. Farmers can also access a list of input suppliers, from whom they can purchase better quality seeds and fertilizers.
Golden Paddy also provides solutions to farmers’ financial exclusion. To prevent the use of loan sharks, the app encourages transparency and identifies all financial products coming from traditional banks or microfinance institutions. The data recovered from the demand side is also made available to these organizations, which can make use of farmers’ preferences to advertise their financial products.
As smartphones broke through the Burmese market very recently, most users remain at the learning phase with their device and offering an application does not ensure a proper use. Therefore, Impact Terra is now working towards farmers’ digital literacy and considers a program where farmers can learn about all the financing options they can afford through digital training workshops.
More than a mere knowledge provider, Golden paddy gives to smallholders the opportunity to make informed decisions and to actively take part in Myanmar’s agrarian economy rather than undergoing the pressure of loan sharks or abusive intermediaries. With timed information, smallholders can manage their farms and yields as real entrepreneurs instead of reproducing the same patterns inherited from past experiences and habits. Finally, taming the digital world to begin with the Golden Paddy app offers bigger opportunities that are not necessarily confined to agricultural practices. Ushering the digital literacy and the financial inclusion of smallholders is admittedly a first step towards food security, but it also turns Myanmar farmers into empowered consumers and enlightened citizens.