Vodacom equips more SA women farmers with digital skills

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The Vodacom Foundation officially launched its digital literacy programme for SA women farmers last year.
The Vodacom Foundation officially launched its digital literacy programme for SA women farmers last year.

The Vodacom Foundation says more than 1 300 women farmers have received training through its digital literacy programme, the Women Farmers Programme.

This number, according to the foundation, is an increase compared to last year’s 600 women who were equipped with digital skills and knowledgeto run their businesses better.

It further states that between February and March this year, more than 250 farms registered with profiles on Vodacom’s Connected Farmer app.

“In South Africa, primary agriculture is an important sector of our economy, as it remains a significant provider of employment, particularly for women in rural areas. But without access to technological knowledge and resources, these women are unable to reach their full potential and make a vital contribution to increasing productivity and decreasing poverty in our country,” says Takalani Netshitenzhe, external affairs director for Vodacom SA.

“Through Vodacom’s participation and investment in the Women Farmers Programme, we hope to equip women farmers with the necessary skills to stake their claim equally in the agriculture sector, and ensure they are not left behind in the digital era.”

The Women Farmers Programme, officially launched last August, introduces women farmers, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, to technology as an effective tool in agricultural business.

The Vodacom Foundation partnered with UN Women and South African Women In Farming (SAWIF) to bring the programme to life, following a pilot in Limpopo in 2018.

So far, it has been extended to four more provinces, including the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West.

According to the foundation, it is divided into phases, with the first phase training women farmers in digital literacy to equip them with digital skills to participate in the mainstream economy. In the second phase, Vodacom says it is going to digitise SAWIF’s database of women farmers, while the third phase is for the women farmers to register on Vodacom’s Connected Farmer app, which provides real-time information on what farmers are producing in which regions.

The foundation says even though training was suspended during the lockdown period, women farmers were able to continue using the app. Administrators of the app could direct buyers to profiled farms offering desired produce, and farmers could keep up to date with the latest industry developments.

Now that lockdown restrictions have eased, the programme will resume, but with strict protocols around social distancing and hygiene.

“Moving forward, the programme hopes to continue to meet the needs of women farmers so that they are able to contribute successfully and equally to the agriculture economy. With the full suite of services, as well as the knowledge and skills learnt through the training, women farmers can be empowered to reap the benefits of technology,” concludes Netshitenzhe.

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