Mobile phone services for farmers

The limited amount of extension services for farmers.

Using traditional farming practices and mostly relying on manual family labor, farmers receive only two extension visits (often at the start of the year and towards the end) due to limited resources and poor road infrastructure to villages. The absence of this timely agricultural information makes it difficult for farmers to provide adequately for their households; a situation that leaves them troubled because of loss of livelihood. The consequences of poor extension services delivery have brought farmers certain poor agronomic practices like post-harvest management challenges, inefficient use of inputs, abuse of pesticides and inadequate access to vital information.

Relying on our grandparents to predict the weather

To make any form of profitable gain from their farms, farmers need the information from extension officers to produce a good product and to profit from it. For example, to plan an agricultural season, they need to know which inputs are needed and what they cost. On the other end, they need to know the price that his harvest will fetch. Furthermore, farmers need to plan their day to day farm activities, and this requires that they have access to timely and reliable weather forecast. In typical Ghanaian communities, our grand-parents would ‘predict’ the upcoming weather by observing the sky and type of clouds. More often than not this was accurate but in recent times due to global warming and climate change they can’t really depend on this method to make actionable decisions on the farm.

Mobile information services as solution for smallholders

Farmerline’s partnership in the TWIGA consortium will seek to build on previous initiatives that are looking to provide accurate weather information amongst others to smallholder farmers by getting readings from in-situ weather stations combined with satellite data to model more accurate forecast for weather elements which has an impact on farming.

Through user research, Farmerline discovered that mobile phone service will provide smallholder farmers a platform for fast, easy and flexible agricultural information. A finding that birthed an innovative mobile voice messaging platform from Farmerline that disseminates weather forecasts, market prices, agronomic tips, and financial tips to more than 30,000 farmers in Ghana.

Pacing the way forward

One of the largest challenges traditionally experienced by Ghana’s smallholder farmers has been a lack of vital information, which is why Farmerline’s mobile phone-based service is a great tool to use seeing as it addresses this problem by giving them access to the necessary information they need.

This mobile phone-based service from Farmerline is needed because the information provided is always relevant to a farmer’s specific situation. This service is helping smallholder farmers transform the agricultural sector to accelerate growth. The service is structured in a way that it will quicken the pace towards full domestic food security, increased agricultural exports, improvement in farm incomes, production of raw materials for value addition through processing, generation of employment and alleviation of poverty.

Translate scientific information to understandable content for farmers

One integral aspect of this process is translating the detailed scientific information into easily understandable content for the farmer’s assimilation and that is where Farmerline comes in to connect the wealth of information that will be made available through this consortium to the smallholder farmer. Farmerline believes the future of Agriculture involves making the Internet of Things and Big Data easily available to the farmers to empower them with insights and information to be able to increase productivity.

Farmerline will be looking at how these services can be provided to the farmer in a sustainable fashion. Typical the cost of service delivery to smallholder farmers makes it difficult for them to be able to pay for them and but through an innovative partnership and business models, these essential services can be deployed at prices points that are affordable and accessible to farmers.

Written by Worlali Senyo