Farmers need to know what the market demands in order to determine what, when and how much to produce. There is therefore need for access to information about prices, trends in the market and quality standards in order to capitalize on market opportunities, increase incomes and enhance food security.
In May 2012, a seminar on the use of mobile phones to deliver agricultural information(particularly market information) to farmers in Uganda was conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to discuss the current and potential role of mobile phones in delivering agricultural production and marketing information in Uganda and also to solicit feedback on the design of a study of the impact of agricultural market information on small farmers in Uganda. The seminar and the study will be implemented by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Agrifood Research Finland (MTT), with support from the FoodAfrica programme of the government of Finland for a period of three years
Rapid growth of Mobile Phone ownership
In Africa by 2012, the Mobile Phone subscription had reached more than 500 million mobile subscriptions more than in the US or the European Union making Africa the fastest growing region in the world. In principle, the rapid growth of mobile phone ownership in rural areas should create new opportunities for delivering agricultural information to farmers. But how, in practice, should the production and delivery of agricultural information be organised?
The questions to ask?
- What is the role of SMS messages and menu-driven databases?
- What is the role of call centers in distributing different types of information?
- What types of information would be most useful to different types of farmers?
- And how can information delivery be made financially sustainable?
Another key question is how much do farmers benefit from agricultural information? The study intends to evaluate the impact of agricultural market information delivered by mobile phones using a randomised-control trial. The study will involve a baseline survey, the provision of information services to random sample of the respondents, and a follow-up survey to assess the impact.
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