Money Moves Tech & Innovation May 16, 2016 at 10:00 am

Mobile Apps Are Transforming Africa

Stephen chukumba | Contributor, F2FA

Stephen chukumba May 16, 2016 at 10:00 am

May 16, 2016 at 10:00 am | Money Moves, Tech & Innovation

Apps are helping Africa's 21st century farmers do everything from check forecasts to develop skills and connect with buyers. (Photo: BBC)

Apps are helping Africa’s 21st century farmers do everything from check forecasts to develop skills and connect with buyers. (Photo: BBC)

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 transport and communication infrastructure, making access to the market  particularly difficult for farmers.

Farmerline bridges this information gap through the use of mobile technology. The Ghana-based 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 services to help reach farmers with low literacy levels. Furthermore, all content is provided in local languages.

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.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, small-scale farmers were often faced with difficulties in respect to planting, harvesting and selling their crops. They faced challenging dilemmas of not knowing the crops to plant, when to plant, the suitable location(s), projected yields, climate issues as well as who the best buyers and sellers were in the market. Inadequate access to data and information made it difficult for farmers to harvest greater yields and manage to be competitive with each other in the market.

Mobile Agribiz is a two-year old startup of Narcisse Mbunzama, who developed a web and SMS mobile application that helps DRC farmers decide when and how to plant crops, select the best crops for a given location using climate and weather data and connect to the available. Farmers can easily connect with customers by sending an SMS with their phone number and information on goods, prices and quantities for sale.

As a result of using Mobile Agribiz, Congolese farmers have improved their productivity, empowered themselves with new skills, increased their incomes by 40% and attained enhanced food security and nutrition for their families and communities.


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