In many developed countries, information has played a major role in agricultural development. But same cannot be said for many developing nations, like Ghana.
For a country where agriculture is the most important economic sector (employing more than half the population on a formal and informal basis and accounting for almost half of GDP and export earnings), Ghanaian smallholder farmers rarely feel the effect of agricultural innovations either because they have no access to important information or because information is poorly circulated. And usually when the farmer lacks access to information and knowledge that would help them achieve maximum agricultural yield, they are not only left to battle poverty but are driven to urban towns in search of formal employment.
“Many farmers in rural areas do not have the most up-to-date information on how to grow food efficiently and economically. Because of this, farmers either plant late or in the middle of the season; something which affects not only the quantity but also the quality of their produce.” Schandorf Adu Bright, Director of Farmer Services at Farmerline, says. “Improving their knowledge of new techniques and technologies, in addition to providing them with resources necessary for implementation, can dramatically increase their level of productivity,” he adds.
Which begs the question: Which agriculture information services can be made available to smallholder farmers in a form that is relevant to their decision making?
Director of Growth, Research and Development at Farmerline, Worlali Senyo explains how Farmerline is helping rectify the situation by providing improved information access and better communication service to smallholder farmers (fishermen and agric workers also) using mobile phones with messages in their local languages.
“Through the Farmerline platform, we send messages such as weather forecast alert, market prices, new farming techniques, agrochemical applications, and inputs, and finance to farmers (and fishermen) at a subsidised fee,” Worlali says. “We also provide the option to collect data from farmers (and fishermen), which also enables them to call into the system for advice.”
This deep understanding of the challenges farmers face and the commitment to providing user-friendly services is what has allowed Farmerline to develop solutions to empower agricultural communities.
Taking it further, Farmerline organises 6-8 workshops every week in farming areas spread across the country to help farmers receive extensive training on the best agricultural practices. These workshops involve how to receive local market prices, crop management know-how customized to a farmer’s local agro-climatic area, timely and relevant weather forecasts, transparent discovery of prices for their produce, and much more. Such real-time information and customized knowledge provided by Farmerline equips farmers to take decisions on cropping patterns and adopting agronomy practices that improve productivity and quality.
These initiatives by Farmerline, which are just the beginning of numerous innovations farmers need to produce and sell more food, provide a glimpse into what can be accomplished through innovation, education and information in the agricultural sector. When farmers gain access to the information and tools that help them better cultivate the land, they can start to shake off the chains of poverty.