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Empowering Smallholder Farmers with Self-Sovereign Identity

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Smallholder cacao farmers in Thailand face several challenges, such as climate change, volatile market conditions, and limited access to resources and services. However, Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) offers a promising solution to address these issues. By providing smallholder farmers with a verified digital identity that they control, SSI enables them to access various services and benefits, ultimately

improving their livelihoods.


In this blog post, we will explore how SSI benefits smallholder farmers and how ECOSHIFT, in partnership with Farmer Connect, is leveraging this technology to empower cacao farmers in Thailand.


Successfully growing and harvesting a crop is hard enough. Today, shifting climate patterns cause more damage more often. Add irregular buyers who drive prices down, delay payments, and change rules to the mix, resulting in lower income. Smallholder farmers need every possible advantage. Self-sovereign identity helps smallholder farmers access services.


How can smallholder farmers gain an advantage?

It wasn’t long ago that verifying the identity of smallholder farmers and their production practices was almost impossible. An opaque supply chain is the result. And although agricultural technology has advanced massively in recent years, smallholder farmers do not always reap those benefits.


Tech solutions can be expensive, and one size only fits some. They often need to be tailored to individual situations. New EU regulations require supply chain traceability and verification. And consumers want to know a product’s origin.


Solutions like end-to-end traceability, onsite soil analysis, and post-harvest optimization can help smallholder farmers gain an advantage.


Access to improved services starts with a digital Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI). A verified SSI lets farmers access various services and validate their supply chain.


What is Self-Sovereign Identity?

Self-sovereign identity lets people own and control a verified digital identity without relying on centralized authorities. The user controls what data is shared selectively and on a need-to-know basis.


Personal data is stored on a decentralized system, like a blockchain, for greater privacy and security, reducing the risk of identity theft and fraud.


SSI verifies more than personal identity. It can prove farm location and that they are not operating on deforested land or using child labour. Better still, farmers can access financial services, preferred pricing and discounts and view and verify all their transactions. At the same time, third parties, like buyers, banks or regulators, have the security of verified credentials and a traceable supply chain.


Another benefit of SSI is that proof of credentials is self-contained. There is no checking with authorities. And the SSI credentials remain valid even if the issuer no longer exists.


Zack Jones of Trinsic, a digital identification provider, notes this resolves the “phone home” problem. For example, if you did business with a company that no longer exists and referenced it, there is no way for a potential partner to verify your claim. With SSI, the credentials remain valid regardless of the company’s status.


How Self-Sovereign Identity Benefits Smallholder Farmers

In developing nations, accessing resources can be challenging for smallholder farmers. ECOSHIFT, in partnership with Farmer Connect, will offer secure, verifiable digital identities to allow smallholder cacao farmers in Thailand access services and opportunities.


A verified SSI improves access to the following services:


1. Enhanced Market Opportunities: one of the significant advantages of SSI for smallholder farmers is improved access to market opportunities. With a digital identity that verifies the quality and origin of their products, farmers can access premium markets that value sustainable and traceable production. For example, ECOSHIFT's buyer-recognized SSI ensures that farmers receive pre-negotiated prices, enabling them to secure better crop prices and earn a fair living income.


2. Financial services: Smallholder farmers often struggle to access financial services due to a lack of formal documents. SSI addresses this challenge by providing verified identities that financial institutions and trade partners can trust. This enables farmers to access loans, digital transactions, and other financial services that can significantly impact their farming operations and quality of life.


3. Supply chain transparency: SSI is crucial in enhancing transparency within the cacao supply chain. By allowing farmers to track their production and sales, SSI improves trust and accountability between farmers, buyers, and other stakeholders. As consumer demand for supply chain transparency grows, SSI enables farmers to securely share information about their products' origin and production practices, ultimately fostering trust and market confidence.



4. Reduced identity fraud: SSI protects farmers from scams, identity theft, and other fraudulent activities that can lead to financial losses.


ECOSHIFT aims to help smallholder cacao farmers improve their market access and increase their bargaining power with buyers by providing verifiable information about their identity, crops, and supply chain. This helps them secure better crop prices and earn a fair living income.


Self-Sovereign Identity Protocols and Recognition

SSI protocols and standards are changing rapidly. As more organizations recognize and adopt them, staying current is imperative. ECOSHIFT’s tech partner Farmer Connect offers an SSI that upholds the latest standards and interoperates with multiple systems.


The Farmer Connect platform is designed to comply with EU traceability standards. ECOSHIFT members can verify their identities across services like the Rainforest Alliance, IBM Food Trust and other sustainability platforms.

Credentials comply with the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF) and the The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards.


What is the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF)?

The Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF) is a non-profit organization established in 2017 to support the development of decentralized identity systems. DIF brings together diverse stakeholders, including individuals, organizations, and technology companies, to collaborate on developing open standards and tools for decentralized identity.


DIF focuses on developing open standards and tools for decentralized identities. The Decentralized Identity (DID) specification provides a standard method for creating and managing decentralized identifiers. And the Verifiable Credentials (VC) specification provides a standard format for issuing and verifying digital credentials. DIF collaborates with other organizations and initiatives working on decentralized identities, such as the W3C Credentials Community Group and the Trust over IP Foundation. By bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders and promoting open standards and collaboration, DIF aims to accelerate the adoption of decentralized identity systems and give individuals greater control over their identity information.


W3C Credentials Community Group

The W3C Credentials Community Group is a part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It is an international community that develops open standards for the web. The Credentials Community Group sets open standards and protocols that enable individuals to control and share their identity information selectively. It uses Decentralized Identity and Verifiable Credentials to create, manage

and securely share digital identity information.


The Credentials Community Group collaborates with other W3C groups, such as the Web Payments Working Group, to ensure its work aligns with different web standards and initiatives.


The Verifiable Credentials Data Model sets standards for creating and managing DIDs and VCs. The criteria and protocols are used in various applications, including digital identity systems, supply chain management, and financial services.


Trust over IP Foundation

The Trust over IP Foundation is a global non-profit organization established in 2019 to promote developing and adopting decentralized identity and verifiable credentials. It is a collaborative effort that brings together a broad range of stakeholders, including individuals, organizations, and technology companies, to work on the development of open standards and protocols for decentralized identity.


The Trust over IP Foundation aims to create a secure and trustworthy digital ecosystem that allows individuals and organizations to own and control their digital identities and share them securely and verifiably. To achieve this, the Foundation focuses on the development of open standards and protocols, such as the Decentralized Identity (DID) specification and the Verifiable Credentials (VC)

specification, that enable individuals to create and manage their digital identities and to share their identity information in a secure and privacy-preserving manner.

The Trust over IP Foundation is also working to promote the adoption of decentralized identity and verifiable credentials across a range of industries and use cases, such as healthcare, financial services, and supply chain management. It collaborates closely with other organizations and initiatives working on decentralized identity, such as the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).


The Trust over IP Foundation is a member-driven organization, and its members include a diverse range of stakeholders from around the world, including individuals, companies, and governments. By bringing together these stakeholders and promoting open standards and collaboration, the Foundation aims to create a more secure and trustworthy digital ecosystem that benefits everyone.


Self-Sovereign Identity and ECOSHIFT

ECOSHIFT is committed to improving the economic and social well-being of smallholder cacao farmers in Thailand. Self-Sovereign Identity is critical to our trust stack and ecosystem governance. It is revolutionizing how smallholder farmers access resources and services, offering them a range of advantages that were once out of reach.


SSI empowers smallholder farmers through improved market opportunities, access to financial services, enhanced supply chain transparency, and increased security.


ECOSHIFT's collaboration with Farmer Connect demonstrates the real-world application and positive impact of SSI on smallholder cacao farmers in Thailand. By leveraging the latest SSI protocols and standards, ECOSHIFT ensures that farmers can access a verified digital identity that enables them to thrive in an increasingly interconnected and sustainable world.




by Tim Morch, Freelance Writer

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