Photograph — SABC News

With the current advancements in technology, the development of relevant skills is becoming more paramount and workers need to educate and equip themselves to avoid being displaced as a result of the digital transformation.

In line with this, Vodacom Foundation has been empowering smallholder female farmers with relevant digital skills in South Africa’s agriculture sector. Tagged Female Farmers Programme, the project was introduced in 2018 and is in partnership with the United Nations (UN) Women.

The programme involves linking digital literacy to the day-to-day running of a farm business; using social media to create publicity for female farmers and promote their farm produces. It is also geared towards providing them with the necessary tools and resources to become valuable contributors to the South African agriculture industry.

“Vodacom believes in using technology to transform people’s lives. After realizing that the female farmers in the Limpopo UN Women program lacked digital literacy skills, the Vodacom Foundation availed the Vodacom supported Teacher Centres to provide basic computer literacy…” Chief Officer of Corporate Affairs at Vodacom, Takalani Netshitenzhe, said.

Since its inception, the programme has trained about 350 small-scale female farmers across rural areas. There are also plans to increase the number of beneficiaries in this new financial period.

The programme also looks to prepare female farmers for the introduction of Vodacom’s “Connected Farmer App” – launched in 2017 – to connect small scale farmers across the agricultural value chain. So far, the app has transformed small scale farming in Kenya via Safaricom and already has over 900,000 registered farmers.

Apart from its numerous advantages to the direct beneficiaries of the programme, the initiative would also boost South Africa’s economy. Although the contribution of agriculture to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined over the years – from 3.9 percent in 1994 to 2.2 percent in 2017 –  primary agriculture remains an important sector. It is a significant provider of employment, with around 700,000 workers in the industry, most of which are in rural areas.

Netshitenzhe further expressed the company’s confidence that the initiative will help to drive development in rural parts of South Africa, bolster food security, and aid female farmers in claiming a stake in the agricultural sector.

The Vodacom Foundation is the corporate social investment (CSI) arm of Vodacom Group Limited, a South African mobile communications company, providing voice, messaging, data and converged services to over 55 million customers. Its partnership with UN Women is part of Vodacom’s support for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2 and 5 – on Zero Hunger and Gender Equality respectively.

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