The Women Farmers Programme, piloted in 2018 by the Vodacom Foundation in partnership with UN Women and South African Women in Farming (SAWIF), was formally launched in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
More than 600 smallholder female farmers in rural areas of Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal have received training in digital literacy to enable them to take full advantage of the economic benefits offered by the digital revolution and successfully participate in the agricultural value chain, according to a statement by the Vodacom Group.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, chief officer of corporate affairs at the Vodacom Group, said the initial plan when the programme was conceptualised in 2016, was to introduce the ‘Connected Farmer App’, to provide real-time information about what farmers were producing in which regions.
The secondary aim was to ensure that small-scale female farmers participating in the programme had access to markets, a key requirement for the transformation of smallholder farmers to commercial production, and to help them meet the quality standards and other conditions set by retailers.
After realising that the women were “digitally illiterate”, the project had to be implemented in four phases. The first phase was providing them with digital literacy to prepare them for the use of the app, she said.
The second phase, which was now being embarked on, was to digitise the programme’s database and to connect farmers with retailers.
The next phase would be to minimise the role of SAWIF by giving the women direct access to markets, while the final phase would be to integrate Vodacom’s financial services offerings into the programme.