Who can benefit from this study?
Civic Tech initiatives
Organisation responsible for case study:
Org. type: For-Profit/business
Farmerline – Creating lasting profits for farmers everywhere
Main Project Location: Kumasi
Project country/countries: Ghana
Project dates: 2013 –
Last updated: 23 March 2022
Brief overview of the Case Study
Farmerline is a Ghanaian social enterprise that develops solutions to increase access to farmers and simplify transactions throughout the agricultural value chain. Farmerline is a service focused on smallholder farmers using technology to link farmers to markets, finance, inputs, and equipment services. Through their mobile phones, farmers can connect to global markets and buy farm inputs and services. In 2013, Farmerline launched its voice messaging services and has since reached thousands of farmers in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Cameroon.
Following a successful pilot of the system in September 2012 and March 2013 on 1000 smallholder farmers in Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Western which saw tremendous results, Farmerline was awarded USD10,000 by FIRE Africa to undertake a project, called ‘improvement of Aquaculture Productivity and Income in Ghana’ over a 12 month period to scale the pilot to reach more than 3000 smallholder fish farmers across Ghana to access timely and best aquaculture practices including market prices, inputs suppliers and weather information, and provide fish farmers the opportunity to access finance and guaranteed markets (report guideline)
The challenge or problem
Due to limited internet access and training from Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, many farming communities are left without access to timely and locally relevant information which can directly benefit their agricultural yields and income. Today, the average age of farmers in Ghana ranges from 45-55 years old. The labour-intensive nature of farming coupled with low yields and low incomes often means that few young people wish to be engaged in the sector. It is not considered to be profitable enough. There is the need for much greater outreach and support to young farmers. (www.fao.org, CFS Case Study)
The solution that was implemented
Farmerline is an agricultural start-up made up of and lead by young people. The CEO/Co-Founder, Alloysius Attah, and the majority of the staff are full-time students or recent graduates from KNUST University in Kumasi. Together as a team, Farmerline has developed an innovative product line of ICTs (web and mobile applications) to support smallholder farmers in increasing their yields and income. Our voice messaging service uses a web platform to communicate best farming practices, weather forecasts, regional market prices and financial tips in local languages to farmers’ mobile phones. We have additionally launched mobile applications that simplify processes for agricultural organization such as collecting data from farmers, mapping farmland and engaging youth in agriculture. In partnership with Hershey’s, Farmerline is developing an agricultural social media mobile app that will (a) create a channel for young farmers, female farmers in particular, to engage with one another and connect with various service providers, (b) encourage the sharing of compelling agricultural content and current events, and (c) provide opportunities for engagement with potential partner organizations. www.fao.org
What results were achieved?
In 2012, Farmerline launched a pilot funded by Indigo Trust to communicate agronomy tips to fish farmers in the Ashanti region of Ghana. According to the Impact Assessment results, fish farmers saw the weight of their fish increase by 6%, prices at which fishes were sold increased by 44%, the harvesting time of fish reduced by 2.2%, and the income of farmers improved by 40%. Through follow-up visits and workshops, Farmerline has recorded impressive increases in yields per acre (as high as 55.6%) among farmers across Ghana directly from utilizing these services.
Although mobile service coverage has exploded across Africa, rural farmers still struggle to maintain reliable service and, in some regions, stable electricity to keep their phones charged. Network saturation is also a common issue on the leading network in Ghana, where a phone number must be dialled several times before finally connecting. Moreover, on the human design side, it must be recognized that farmers are hard-working, busy people and are not always free to answer their phone. This disrupts the reception of messages and full attendance in registration, training, and follow-up workshops. To mitigate these risks, Farmerline has developed intelligent retry patterns for outgoing messages that optimize the chance of connecting with farmers, even if the phone is unavailable on the first try. Farmerline also allows farmers to customize their messages, including the option to select the best time of day to receive voice calls.
Lessons and recommendations
Lessons can be learned from many aspects of project implementation, covering a wide variety of aspects such as technical, social, cultural, and economic. Taking the rationale behind the project and its objectives can serve as a framework to draw your conclusions.
Farmerline’s innovation can be implemented in any African country where smallholders are faced with challenges of access to timely and revelant information. As long as the messages are convenient, localized, interesting and actionable, we believe this educational method can have positive impact in any area of the world with mobile phone usage.
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