Small-scale farmers are struggling to feed the world in the face of climate change. But what if the solution was already in their pocket? Leveraging the power of mobile phones, Mercy Corps’ innovative AgriFin program is taking small-scale farming from subsistence to sustainable. We catalyze a global network of partners to create digital “one-stop-shops” that farmers can access anytime, anywhere – from better seeds to banking services. Our approach has already helped over 3 million farmers increase their harvests and incomes. Now, as population growth and climate change collide to create new challenges for farmers worldwide, it’s time to up our game. Together with NASA and Digital Green, we’ll leverage on-the-ground expertise and space-borne satellite technology to help farmers adapt to a changing climate. And with support from the MacArthur Foundation, we can mobilize 25 million small-scale farmers to transform the way they feed the world.
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Small-scale farmers are unbelievably resilient. But in the face of climate change, their resilience is being pushed to its limit. From drought and famine to pests and disease, farmers who have persevered in the world’s toughest conditions for generations are now struggling to stay ahead of climate change’s vicious cycle. Disasters pile on top of the countless challenges they already face, making the hard work of growing food even harder. This isn’t just bad news for the farmers. It’s bad news for the people they feed – a whopping 80% of the population in low-income countries. Just this year in Kenya, the rainy season that farmers depend on never came. The resulting near famine conditions put millions at risk of starvation in a matter of weeks. This is only the beginning unless farmers can find a way to keep up with a changing climate and become part of the solution to combating it. Farmers have shown they can adapt to daunting challenges. But adapting to a threat as big as climate change may be their biggest challenge yet. That’s what the data—and the farmers themselves—are telling us. “We need additional information and guidance about climate change,” says Simon Mwaina, a farmer in Makueni, Kenya. “So that we can know what to plant which season.” That’s where we come in. Farmers can’t change the weather, but they can change how they prepare for it. And that could change everything.
“This is the rainy season,” says Ale, a small-scale farmer in Ethiopia. “But as you see...we’re still waiting and praying for the rain to come.” Ale is not alone. Countless farmers like her are facing climate change on top of existing challenges – including financial instability and lack of education and resources. Those existing challenges are why we created AgriFin in 2012 – combining critical services for farmers like financing, quality seeds, and connections to buyers, all delivered right to their mobile phone. “When I see a problem, I just get my phone and dial,” says Simon of Kenya. “Then I get exactly what I’m looking for.” To date, AgriFin has helped 3 million farmers increase their harvests and incomes. Now we’re taking AgriFin to the next level to tackle climate change. NASA will bring satellite-to-soil data and Earth modeling to inform hyper-local insights into soil moisture, water availability, the best crops for each field and the right time to plant – filling what farmers have told us is a critical gap. And Digital Green and other partners will support adoption of climate-smart practices through educational videos, SMS chatbots and interactive voice response in farmers’ own languages and contexts. With support from the MacArthur Foundation, we can scale this evolved version of AgriFin to reach 25 million farmers in Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Myanmar, and Nigeria. And together, we can transform this moment of crisis into an opportunity to feed the world sustainably for generations to come.