Improving livelihoods for smallholder farmers through mobile technology

Unilever partnered with Vodafone to implement and rollout mobile technology to smallholder farmers, helping create a more inclusive supply chain and build direct relationships by connecting with farmers on a regular basis.

Mobile Technology for Smallholder Farmers in Tanzania

The pilot, which tested the scalability for other regions and supply chains, worked with tea farmers in Tanzania and coconut sugar farmers in Indonesia. It aimed to enhance their livelihoods by helping implement best practices, increase access to markets and reduce transactional costs. From Unilever’s perspective, it also enhanced the traceability of raw materials and help secure future supply.

The pilot, which ran until December 2016, was implemented by Unilever Tea Tanzania in Tanzania and by the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership in Indonesia.

A three-pronged approach

The technology benefited farmers, field officers and internal Unilever teams. Through targeted SMS messages, farmers received timely information around weather forecasts, crop quality and training dates. They also had access to a mobile payment system, where field officers logged the quantity and quality of crops, thus reducing the risk of carrying cash. Field officers were able to complete Rainforest Alliance certification audits electronically.

This information can then be stored centrally with the potential to use it for more in depth analyses, including performance and impact. And internal Unilever teams were able to access live information and analytics, generate mobile payments, and track volumes and crop quality.

Faster, more efficient ways of working

“Our ambition is to mainstream sustainable agriculture while improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” says Camille Chammas, VP Supply Chain Procurement & Sustainability, Unilever. “This partnership is a great example of how we can create faster and more efficient ways of working while building direct relationships with the farmers in our supply chain. Through regular and direct messages around quality and best practice, we can help improve the overall quality of the crops and ensure high quality produce for our brands.”

“We are continuing to see the importance of IT in helping to drive sustainability. By investing in technologies and combining this with traditional farming methods we can transform current practices and help implement sustainable agriculture on a wider scale,” says Mark McClennon, VP Enterprise & Technology Solutions.

Meet Sukkirno

A coconut sugar farmer in Indonesia

Sukkirno and his family have been coconut sugar farmers in Indonesia for three generations.

“I mostly use my phone at the moment to call our children who live in Bengkulu city,” says Sukkirno. “I am interested in hearing via SMS the current market price of sugar and the market demand. I enjoy working with my wife every day and making a product we can sell together. We use coconut sugar to cook with and make our own sweet soy sauce – it’s our secret family recipe!”