Government-funded global agriculture programs are making a world of difference for many small farmers in rural Africa. Don’t believe it? Read the living proof:
Getting a fair price at market is always a struggle. Find out how mobile technology is changing the lives of farmers in Ghana.
Prosper Biche is a yam farmer from eastern Ghana. Until recently, he relied on an antiquated system to sell his goods and get them to market – he would sell his wares to individual buyers who then crisscross the countryside on bicycles and sell the goods to processing plants in towns and cities, which will then pass them on to distributors, retailers and exporters.
These buyers, knowing that farmers like Prosper are totally unaware of the amount that processing companies will pay for commodities, buy their produce for rock-bottom prices, making profits for themselves but leaving the farmers struggling to survive. A company called Esoko has found an innovative technology to change all that.
For a small fee, Prosper has signed up to receive 10 price updates a week from Esoko – a private agricultural market information platform – helping him know not only what his produce is worth, but when is the best time to travel to market to sell it.
“Before Esoko, I sent my 100 tubers of yam to Accra and could get 20 Ghana cedis for it,” Prosper says. “Now I check prices on Esoko and go to Accra when prices are good. I can get up to 200 Ghana cedis for the same 100 tubers.”
For only US$ 1 per month, Esoko’s service has a tremendous return on investment, with the company’s CEO Mark Davies reporting that farmers were being paid 20-40% more for their crops – a significant increase to their income and quality of life.
Esoko uses researchers to obtain data for most of the agricultural markets it covers, but hopes in the future to have users directly supply most of the information to the system. The product is expanding to include information on stocks, the weather, buyer locations, as well as helping to coordinate transport and supply chain infrastructure.
Esoko also franchises its technology to governments, non-governmental organizations and businesses to save them the cost of developing similar technology. Currently, it is being used in nine African countries, including Nigeria and Malawi.
While Esoko is currently funded by grants as well subscriptions, it is transitioning towards a full for-profit business model to allow it to be sustainable and consistent in its service to farmers. It estimates that in any one country it will need 10,000 individuals and 2,000 business customers to be profitable. Given that two-thirds of Africans are involved in agriculture, and 500 million have a mobile phone, this seems very attainable.