Farmerline: using mobile phones to help farmers in Ghana (orignially published at the Guardian December 17, 2014). Many small-scale farmers in Ghana lack information about farming techniques and market prices. One company is helping to change that.
Agriculture is one of Ghana’s key sectors, contributing 22% to the country’s gross domestic product and employing 42% of its workers. With an average farm size of about 1.2 hectares, most farmers in Ghana are small-scale.
Many of these small-scale farmers struggle with low yield and high post-harvest losses, partly due to their lack of access to agriculture information. Ghana only has one extension agent for every 2,000 farmers, and poor road and communications infrastructure make access to market information particularly difficult for farmers.
Farmerline Ltd tackles this challenge by bridging this information gap through the use of mobile technology. The company provides three service lines. Outbound messaging provides personalized voice alerts that communicate critical information related to price, weather and farming techniques. Mobile surveys allow farmer-based organizations to conduct surveys to capture the impact of their interventions. The company’s support line gives farmers direct access to expert advice.
All of the company’s services are offered via SMS, and Android as well as voice-based messaging service to help reach farmers with low literacy levels. Furthermore, all content is provided in local languages.
By offering these mobile-based services, Farmerline provides critical market information to Ghana’s small-scale farmers, which helps them increase their yields by adopting improved farming practices. The company’s customers, many of whom are women, ultimately benefit from increased income. Through its commitment to BCtA, Farmerline envisions a reach of 500,000 farmers in West Africa by 2019.
Tomohiro Nagasaki is the impact measurement consultant at Business Call to Action.