Bringing information to farmers on their mobile phones
Posted Wednesday, January 30 2013 at 00:00
A one-stop shop on agricultural and financial services for smallholder farmers on their mobile phones will soon be a reality. This will be thanks to Agri-Fin Mobile a programme of Mercy Corps, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), that is seeks to bundle relevant information and services to farmers through their mobile phones.
Some of the information Agri-Fin will bring closer to the farmer will include, weather information , market prices, growing tips, availability of farm input , post-harvest handling as well as financial services like loans and savings.
The programme has so far signed a memorandum of understanding with Mobipay to adapt its data collection and management platform, AgriLife.
On ground work has started with data collection on farmers from around the country and additional services will be provided within six months. “The idea is to bundle agricultural and financial services so the farmers wherever they are can access them through their mobile phones. Most of the work will be accomplished through partners who already provide the services, in the various areas, Agri-Fin Mobile is just a vehicle.” says Stephen S. Musoke Agri-Fin Mobile Uganda Programme Coordinator, Mercy Corps.
He says the Mobipay partnership was the first of many that will have to happen as the three-year programme is implemented.
Access to mobile phones
Other partners are expected to be drawn from various areas like financial institutions, agriculture research institutions, farm produce buyers, mobile network service providers.
The project will engage partners who are already active in the fields like Mobipay, which is already involved in data collection from farmers
About 80 per cent of the total Ugandan population are in farming which contributes 22 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. However financial services are still scarce for majority of farmers yet many have access to mobile phones.
Agri-Fin seeks to leverage this access to mobile phones to bring information and services closer to farmers. “First step is to collect information on what farmers are producing when. This will also include working with buyers, farmers, and the market as a whole. It is a continuous process,” says Musoke.
The farmer is likely set to benefit from exposure when the information gathered on him reaches relevant players in the market. “With information on how much a certain farmer produces, financial institutions for example will be able to use that information to tailor services for the farmers” says Musoke.
Another benefit he lists is that it will be easier to produce a better estimate on what harvest is going to be like. “Financial institutions will also be able to get a better quality customer,” he adds.
With AgriLife up running, farmers will be able to access vital information which right now is not readily available like weather forecast, when to plant, information on crop disease, and current market prices, on the gadgets in their hands.
The Agri-Fin Mobile programme, launched in June 2012, aims to provide low-income farmers in the developing world with “bundled” financial and agricultural advisory services to boost their production and incomes.
In its first three years, the programme aims to increase the income of 180,000 low-income farmers in Indonesia, Uganda and Zimbabwe by 30 per cent.