Saturday, December 4, 2010

New software to benefit African farmers

A new technology project could provide small African farms in Ghana with timely crop information, enabling farmers to increase their incomes.

IFC (a member of the World Bank) and Soros Economic Development Fund have both invested $1.25 million into Esoko, a Ghanaian technology firm whose new software takes advantage of the fast-growing mobile phone market in Ghana.

The technology allows farmers "affordable and timely access to market information that can help them negotiate better prices and improve the timing of getting their crops to market," according to a joint IFC/Soros press release, mainly through the use of text messaging.

"Our platform was developed by African software engineers here in Accra, Ghana and has been a totally local market-drive initiative," said Esoko CEO Mark Davies. "IFC and SEDF have a strong track record of helping local companies get this funding and advice needed to expand into new regions and markets. With their support, we hope to export this African technology all around the world."

The software allows different parties in the agricultural chain to exchange real-time market information. Farmers receive current demands, prices of crops and the location of seeds and fertilizers directly on their mobile phones. Associations and governments can share critical information with thousands using a bulk-text messaging feature, IFC and Soros added in their news release.

The technology is already being used in nine African countries.

Esoko is also publishing the first commodities indices in Africa in an effort to ensure that farmers are fairly compensated for their crops, as formal commodity exchanges are very rare on the continent. The company is initially publishing two indices for 12 agriculture commodities in seven markets in Ghana.

For a video on Esoko's work, please visist:

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