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Linking farmers to markets through ICTs

14 July 2014

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Agricultural market information services usually make their services available via websites, though some also distribute their information via radio, newspaper and television.

Linking farmers to markets helps farmers to escape the greed of middlemen and traders as it improves their knowledge of market prices and increases their bargaining power. Better roads in rural areas, for example, will encourage them to transport their produce to distant markets themselves and bypass middlemen. Similarly, the expansion of mobile network services into rural areas will effectively connect farmers to local and distant markets. Agricultural market information services (AMIS), several of which have been launched across Africa (see box), hold great promise for enhancing agricultural value chains.   

Agricultural market information services are a set of tools for collecting and processing agricultural and livestock market information and delivering this information to farmers, as well as traders, food processors and government functionaries. These services aim to increase the transparency of the agricultural marketplace. Informed farmers can make better business choices, for instance which crops to plant or how long to store their produce until prices improve. Information from local and distant markets also helps farmers to decide how to price their products and where to sell them. Eventually, better business decisions improve their bargaining power and increase their income.     

Many AMIS initiatives make more than just market information available to farmers. Indeed, they also provide agricultural extension advice, weather forecasts and prices for agriculture-related inputs. Some services even help farmers to find buyers for their produce and buy their farm inputs directly from manufacturers at favourable prices.   

Learning quickly   

Agricultural market information services usually make their services available via websites, though some also distribute their information via radio, newspaper and television. But increasingly their services are available as mobile agricultural value-added services through mobile networks and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.   

The number of farmers using agricultural market information services is on the rise. Many of these services, such as Esoko, Manobi, LINKS, KACE and M-Farm, have been successfully employed by farmers. Many more of these services, however, have been less successful, often because they have either failed to provide timely, accurate and cost-effective market information or have not made their information easily accessible for the intended users.   

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