Due to the world’s growing population, it becomes harder and harder to satisfy global food demand, especially in remote and rural areas of developing countries. More effort and new breakthroughs are necessary to increase agricultural productivity, improve the functioning of the global food value chain, reduce waste, and prevent hunger. More importantly, all these goals must be achieved while aligned with sustainability principles. The fact is that poverty and hunger are most common in rural areas, and a very large number of the poor and hungry depend on small local farmers. Therefore, the battle against poverty and hunger starts with increasing agricultural productivity and incomes of smallholder growers. There is a need to increase the productivity of agricultural systems around the world and reduce agricultural waste. And the use of sustainable agricultural practices can be the way to do so.
Soil and water resources are essential in food production and, in view of their increasing scarcity in many parts of the world, their sustainable use and management is of paramount importance. Restoring damaged soils through sustainable agricultural practices will also help prevent deforestation as trees are constantly cut down to make more room for farmland. Maintaining the productivity of arid lands can be facilitated by judicious exploitation of scarce water resources through improved irrigation planning, new storage technologies, combined with the development of resistant crop varieties and advanced crop monitoring.
To achieve all this, especially having a small farm, is quite a challenge. That is why there are two main options for such farmers — become part of an agricultural cooperative or use modern technologies like reliable crop management software developed specifically for effective farming.
Small Farmers and Their Vulnerabilities
Small farmers are key players in the global food security system. However, despite the huge role they play in achieving this security, they are still a vulnerable and often neglected group in the agricultural industry. They are facing the same issues as big farmers but often have close to zero chance to respond to those problems effectively, let alone sustainably.
One of the biggest threats known to all farmers is climate change. Agriculture in general significantly depends on the weather, including temperatures, precipitation, and extreme weather events. To withstand constantly changing weather patterns, growers need to ensure the climate resilience of their farms. Especially if these are smallholder farmers who can lose their entire harvest if everything is not managed properly. To help them with that there are online crop monitoring systems, farm robotics, ground sensors, drones, etc. Such technologies help farmers keep up with the changes in weather and in crop health to make timely and effective decisions, increasing productivity and profits.
Cooperatives for Smallholder Farmers
Farm cooperatives help members address the issue of efficiency, especially in the conditions of a developing world. The biggest problem of small farms is that they receive a little more or the same money they spend on inputs. Not having sufficient financial resources and access to credits and loans they could use to increase their farms’ profits, one of the best solutions for small farmers is to establish agri cooperatives to share capital, reduce expenses, and increase revenue.
More so, farmers who joined a cooperative have better access to data, more bargaining power, and lower transaction costs in getting loans. The members also have the opportunity to benefit from the use of modern agricultural technologies, including a digital crop monitoring system for an agricultural field. Cooperatives also help enhance control over production, including inputs and land use, which means improved food security.
Technology Catering to Smallholder Farmers
Agriculture is no stranger to digitalization and the use of different advanced technologies, including satellite crop monitoring. For example, satellite images analyzed and available via farm software can help remotely detect changes in crop health, moisture levels, field productivity, and more. Also, the analysis can be performed for every field zone to ensure input application based on the needs of each plot. This means saved resources, costs, and time on-farm monitoring and management.
Another field that continues to revolutionize agriculture is biotechnology. The crops are becoming more resistant to drought, heat, pests, and diseases, meaning more yields and increased resilience of big and small food producers to environmental factors.