Today 500 million smallholder farmers produce 80% of the food for the developing world. These farmers face many challenges, including poor yields, difficulty managing their crops in a sustainable manner and inadequate access to financing. Blockchain offers prospect for improving all these issues.
Ending hunger worldwide
Goal 2 in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) is Zero Hunger. Currently one in nine people worldwide are undernourished. Globally, agriculture accounts for the largest sector of employment. Iinvesting in smallholder producers, both women and men, will have a positive impact on nutrition, food security, and food production. Improved farming practices will also result in greater agricultural biodiversity, which will also improve nutrition, increase profits, and enhance sustainability for the long term.
Economic growth is key to development
UNSDG Goal 8 is Decent Work and Economic Growth. In 2016, 61% of all workers worldwide had only informal employment. Increased access to financial services will bring benefits both to individuals, and to communities, as lending will stimulate trade, banking, and agriculture infrastructures.
Africa has already seen innovation in consumer finance: mobile banking services offered by organizations such as M-Pesa have brought financial services to a population that has historically been unbanked. Closed-loop payment systems, which allow consumers to load money into an individual spending account, are another means of bringing financial services to unbanked populations. Blockchain technology such as distributed ledgers and smart contracts make closed-loop systems a viable and cost-effective solution for making lending available to communities and individuals.
Two innovative blockchain solutions
Coin22 is a blockchain finance platform that is disrupting traditional funding models by enabling fast, easy and transparent mobile money transfers and payments. Coin22’s Agri-wallet uses an innovative two-token model. Class A tokens, stored on the Ethereum blockchain, allow funds to enter the platform and offer transparency and security. Class A tokens are then used to create Class B tokens, which are maintained centrally by the platform (not on a blockchain). Class B tokens are used for micropayments and are accessed via mobile digital wallets. This ensures that users are not affected by the high transaction fees and volatility associated with many cryptocurrencies. Tokens also give lenders surety that payments are used for farming activities, and farmers benefit from increased production and income.
RainTrust’s Agro-Blockchain for Africa promises to improve livelihood and food security, protect and preserve the environment, and use blockchain to deploy capital and supply chains. RainTrust uses the Stellar blockchain platform to power financial transformation on all levels from microfinance to the supply chain.
RainTrust hopes to double the productivity of small farms by 2030, and is leading a shift towards sustainable intensification of agriculture. For this to happen, farmers will need new markets, new skills and finance to bring these skills to new markets. RainTrust visionary David Plattner says, “we see opportunities to leverage the blockchain to meet these needs at scale.” Blockchain technology will enable capital and food chains to enter African markets, even as it ensures the spread of knowledge about African businesses. Because blockchain allows transactions to be “immutably tied to land and people,” it will open many opportunities in Africa. Transaction data will be linked to specific plots of land and farming collectives, and lenders will be able to assess financial risk in unprecedented ways. To further these goals, RainTrust is partnering with the African Union, and has also formed a partnership with Producers Market, an organization that provides a platform for the tokenization and exchange of agricultural and natural resources, offering smallholder farmers the chance to enter global markets.
RainTrust is also working to combat desertification, which leads to the loss of water sources and land resources, as well as an increase in conflicts in affected regions. Desertification has global ramifications: there is a risk that 60 million people will migrate to Europe by 2020 if they aren’t able to sustain their livelihoods in Africa. RainTrust’s Great Green Wall project is incentivizing the planting of trees in an 8000km band across the continent. In addition to providing food and jobs for the population in these regions, and helping to preserve habitats for and prevent poaching of endangered wildlife such as elephants, the Great Green Wall will also help combat global climate change.
By improving their access to funding, blockchain will give African smallholder farmers the ability to transform their own lives, as well as their communities. As their economic security increases, farmers will also be able to engage in more sustainable forms of agriculture, which will ultimately have benefits far beyond Africa. Blockchain truly has the potential to change the world.