Agriculture permeates all spheres of life in the African context and it is what many families are acquainted with. Most African societies are still agrarian-based and agriculture forms the livelihood of many families, and contributes significantly to the countries’ GDPs. However, limitations, hindrances and problems have often affected the progress of agriculture, particularly affecting smallholder farmers.
In the West African nation of Ghana, a company has found very feasible and viable solutions to enhance agricultural productivity among smallholder farmers. The company in focus is called Farmerline, which has made huge strides in improving the lives of smallholder farmers in Ghana. Farmerline, the social enterprise, works hard to improve the lives of millions of farmers by deploying mobile and web technologies that brings farming advice, weather forecasts, market information, and financial tips to farmers who are traditionally out of reach due to barriers in connectivity, literacy, and/or language.
Small farmers in Ghana account for nearly 80% of domestic food production and have an average farm size of about 1.2 hectares. However the bane of small farmers is the low use of improved technology and this negatively affects the output of the farm produce. Low crop and animal productivity affect the smallholder farmers particularly.
Farmerline found the solution to this by bridging the information gap exploiting the high rates of mobile penetration in Ghana. They provide a seasonal subscription service that offers farmers via their mobile phones access to critical agricultural information, all in their local language (and by voice for those customers that have low-literacy) for easy understanding. Some farmers have low literacy levels and thus the voice messages become of great help in equipping the farmer with very useful advice and the farmer is free to ask where they don’t really understand.
With improved information that the farmers have access to, Farmerline reports that yields have increased immensely and farmers are enjoying the fruits of their toil. Where some don’t have the technologies, Farmerline conducts workshops and training programs as a strategy to provide smallholder farmers with timely and locally relevant agricultural advisory information which will directly improve their yield and increase their income.
Alloysius Attoh, the founding member of the company, says that the passion to develop Farmerline stemmed from his very humble beginnings and how he understands the challenges and complexities that the average smallholder farmer experiences. His parents were farmers and he got educated by the profits realized from farming, such that when he completed university he sought to use his education to help those that undertake farming as their business and source of livelihood. On behalf of Farmerline, he has trained more than 3,000 small-scale farmers to adopt and benefit from Farmerline’s voice messaging technology.
If it were possible for other African countries to partner up with Farmerline and employ its services in bolstering agricultural productivity it would be very noble.
In this regard, such African talent is worth celebrating.