Tech and Humanitarian Assistance: Striving for Sustainable Agriculture

Sylvana Lewin | Monday, January 29th, 2018

Since the start of our Tech and Humanitarian Assistance series, we’ve taken a look at how technology is being used to alleviate the ongoing global refugee crisis, improve women’s health, and combat world hunger. We couldn’t do a tech series without looking at AgriTech, one of the key industries where we’re seeing significant innovation. This week we’ll take a look at how technology is being used to support farmers and take strides towards more sustainable agriculture.


According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 24% of the world’s productive lands are degraded. The World Resources Institute defines degraded land as “land that has lost some degree of its natural productivity due to human-caused processes”. 1.5 billion lives are affected by degraded lands, with the world’s poor heavily impacted. 42% of the world’s poor depend on degraded lands for nutrition and income. It is also estimated that 66% of people in Africa are living on land that is degraded to some extent.


It is our impact on the planet that’s causing such issues.The WHO states, “Land degradation has accelerated during the 20th century due to increasing and combined pressures of agricultural and livestock production (over-cultivation, overgrazing, forest conversion), urbanization, deforestation, and extreme weather events such as droughts and coastal surges which salinate land.”


With an expected 35% increase in global food demand by 2030, stronger food systems are imperative. Better agriculture is one important step towards stronger food systems. The World Wildlife Fund explains, “Sustainable land use can help to reduce the impacts of agriculture and livestock, preventing soil degradation and erosion and the loss of valuable land to desertification.”


Sustainable agriculture is important in the battle against land degradation and rising food demand. Here are some innovations in tech leading the way!




WeFarm is the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer digital network. Currently, there are 500 million smallholder farmers in the world, most of whom are living on less than 1$ a day. WeFarm has nearly 600 thousand farmers using their platform to share and access information through even the most basic mobile phone.


The company offers a free peer-to-peer service that enables farmers to share information via SMS, without the internet and without having to leave their farm. Farmers can ask questions on farming and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers around the world in minutes, leading to better farming practices.They operate on three key principles: information improves livelihoods, connect millions of people, and peer-to-peer is a powerful model.




FarmerLine’s mission is to transform smallholder farmers into successful entrepreneurs by increasing their access to information inputs, and resources to increase productivity. They offer a variety of products targeting both farmers and businesses and are working with over 200,000 farmers to create a stronger food system through better practices.


Their products for farmers include access to global markets, a mobile marketplace, and a 399 information service. Through their 399 information service, FarmerLine provides farmers real time agricultural education via mobile as well as access to weather forecasts, market prices, and GAPs. Information is customized to location and stage of production. Their Marketplace on Your Mobile platform allows farmers to easily access farm inputs, water, solar energy, and financial services.


Their products for businesses include an engagement platform powered by Mergdata; a last mile distribution network; and markets, data, and analytics. Their engagement platform is a data-driven communication platform for businesses working with last-mile customers to increase productivity of small-scale farmers through high-quality information services and in-person trainings.


Digital Green


Digital Green is a global development organization that empowers smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of poverty by harnessing the collective power of technology and grassroots level partnerships. The company began in 2006 as a project of Microsoft Research to test if there was a role for technology in small-scale agricultural systems. They became an independent non-profit in 2008 and have reached over 1.5 million of the world’s poorest people.


Having started in India then moved to Ghana and Ethiopia, the company is now working in twelve countries on three continents. They offer a variety of solutions including community videos, Coco, training courseware, Loop, and their Innovation Lab.


AgriTech is making big waves on and off the continent, and these are just a few of the companies working to improve the lives of farmers as well as promote sustainable practices. MEST currently has six agritech companies in our portfolio, including: AgroInnova, Anitrack, CompleteFarmer, Ghalani, QualiTrace, and TroTro Tractor, who are are all creating innovative solutions to make farmers’ lives a little bit easier.

The TroTro Tractor Ltd. Team

Make sure to keep following our Tech and Humanitarian Assistance series as we look at how technology is being used to combat poverty in two weeks!