Biometrics has been used in various aspects of life from mobile, payment to buildings, national borders. Its benefits are undeniable which bring top security and convenience to our lives. Countries which economy is heavily dependent on agriculture are taking these advantages of biometric technology to narrow the gap, bring social and financial benefits to farmers and workers which can help them to have a better life. Regarding to FAO in 2011, 40% of workforce worldwide equals to around 1.3 billion people are farmers. In poorer nations, agriculture even employs 75% of the population. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) can be considered as the first program to enable easier, more efficient and secured access to public services and make sure the welfare benefits go directly to the right person.
UIDAI was first launched in 2010 which aimed to provide each Indian resident with a unique identification number. The solution used fingerprint and iris recognition technologies to collect biometric data which is considered a right move of Indian Government. According to Times of India, there are around 263 million people working in agriculture in 2011, over half of all Indian workers. With calloused fingerprints, it’s impossible for them to register with fingerprint data. That’s one of the main reasons why Indian authority decided to include iris recognition in the system.
Subsequently, many other applications based on this unique identity was deployed such as time attendance, pension distribution, banking and micro finance. For farmers, especially those in remote areas, biometric-based micro-ATM has been a revolution in banking, giving them an equal chance to approach finance services with benefits such as: ease of payments at doorstep instead of travelling long distances, minimized queuing leading to operational efficiencies, accurate and fast transaction and security enhancement. Not to mention that, biometrics has opened a new gate for those with illiteracy and regional languages barriers to financial equality. Since its first launch in 2012, micro-ATM market in India has increased fast and expected to grow significantly in the coming time when it may even get financial support from the Government.
In another story, World Bank researcher Xavier Giné has found that biometric identification technology can encourage borrowers to repay their loans and enable financial institutions to grant more loans to creditworthy applicants, reducing the costs and risks of lending. The evaluation which was done among randomly selected smallholder paprika farmers receiving microfinance loans for subsidized farming inputs in Malawi had showed positive results. For banks and financial institutions, it’s a low cost solution and helps them continue extending credit to the borrowers. As a result, farmers will be able to loan funds to invest in their crops and improve their life.
Besides those benefits, enterprises can also leverage these biometric technologies to install a workforce system to manage their workers efficiently. In farmlands, workers usually wear gloves or have damaged fingerprint, so a biometric contactless solution would be very helpful in authenticating their identity without touching the device. For example, iris biometrics has been used in an orchard in New Zealand or a tea farm in Sri Lanka to verify their workers and track their check-in and out.
Recently reported by BiometricUpdate, the Nigerian government said it will register at least 16 million farmers in a new biometric database to enable them to receive benefits from intervention packages during the 2017 cropping season. If the project is successful in Nigeria then it can be a model system for other African and developing countries to deploy, especially those with high employment in agriculture and high poverty. Biometric solutions can help them to effectively address the challenge of food security, tackle poverty and create employment opportunities.