Empowering Smallholders through Strengthened Digital Ecosystems

Digitalisation for smallholder agriculture can be a game-changer in supporting and accelerating agricultural transformation across low-and middle-income countries. Investing in building this digital infrastructure will enable new capabilities in agriculture and revolutionise how communities secure their livelihoods leading to our shared vision of a living income for all.

Digital platforms can enable key services to be provided efficiently and at low transactions costs to smallholders.  In addition, they can help create traceability, boost the true value of food and provide extra income streams. Many digital platforms already exist and are currently being developed to serve smallholders. Yet many smallholders are beyond the reach of these emerging platforms and not benefiting.  Some of the challenges relate to the unsuitability of the digital solutions provided for the local context, the cost of the service, the digital literacy gap, and the limited reach, in particular to women farmers and the poorest smallholders. Additionally, some structural barriers prevent access, such as the costs of infrastructure like fiber connections in rural communities, with data being even more expensive than in developed countries. It is crucial to address these and other challenges to promote greater access to and uptake of digital tools for smallholders and rural communities.

In the currently published national pathways, several countries such as Albania, Burundi, Cambodia, Eswatini, Honduras, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, Marshall Islands, Rwanda, and South Africa have highlighted the importance of strengthening their smallholder digital ecosystem to drive food systems transformation.


We believe that it will take the development of “Platforms of Platforms” to connect the evolving platforms and digital product and service providers into a functioning digital ecosystem. This needs to be supported by appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks to improve the outcomes for and with smallholders. A stronger ecosystem needs to include good infrastructure, clear roles for digital services and human agent models, good understanding, and the capacity of SHF and rural institutions in each context to adopt and use these solutions.

In brief, we would like to see how to build on the digital platforms and services already existing or under development, to address the basic needs of smallholders more directly. Developing change agents with digital literacy is vital. They can provide the human face to the technologies that will enable access and use by millions of lower-income smallholders. These agents will link technology companies to smallholders, fostering a new breed of young ICT ‘agripreneurs’.

Area or action that relates to the commitment: Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work, & Empowered Communities

Geography where the commitment will impact: Global

Lead organisation: Netherlands Food Partnership

Partner organisations: 

  • Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP)
  • Global Farmer Network (GFN)
  • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
  • ISEAL Alliance
  • Rabobank
  • Rabobank Foundation
  • Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture
  • The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH)
“We are excited about the emerging coalition to strengthen digital ecosystems, as this will allow us to partner more effectively with others with complementary solutions to allow data to flow more easily to farmers and back to those looking to support them, and using that data to provide more appropriate and affordable bundles of support to the farmers.”

Simon Winter - Executive Director | Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture


Rojan Bolling
Netherlands Food Partnership