New market information systems and services based on mobile communication technologies create opportunities to reduce the cost of linking buyers and sellers, thus developing opportunities to reduce poverty.

FoodAfrica work package 6 is using randomized control trials in Ghana and Uganda to study the impact of agricultural market information delivered to farmers’ mobile phones on the prices they receive for their crops, marketing patterns, and income.

Results of te endline survey in Ghana are being analyzed

Professor Jarkko Niemi from Luke introducing the results of the baseline surveys and randomized controlled trial as a research method to the seminar audience who were mainly students and researchers.
Professor Jarkko Niemi from Luke introducing the results of the baseline surveys and randomized controlled trial as a research method to the seminar audience who were mainly students and researchers.

At the end of April, a seminar on crop marketing and the use of mobile phones in Ghana and Uganda was held at the University of Ghana. In the seminar the results of the baseline surveys were introduces by Professor Jarkko Niemi from the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). The endline survey in Ghana was carried out in March and April, and the results are now being analyzed and compared to the baseline survey.

The endline survey was carried out by Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of University of Ghana. Professor Felix Asante and Dr. Simon Bawakyillenuo from ISSER were coordinating the field work. In March, IFPRI and Luke researchers finalized the questionnaires, trained the ISSER enumerators, and fine-tuned the data entry program. In April, ISSER’s enumerators went to the field and visited the same farm households from the baseline survey. They traveled to 43 districts of Northern Ghana to collect information about yields, crop marketing, incomes, mobile phone use, and other relevant matters.

The data collection made use of 7” tablets. The benefit of using tablets is robust, efficient and expedited data delivery: the data can be checked, stored and transferred to data server immediately after interview. Hence, there is no need to save the questionnaire in paper format.

Accra seminar highlighted the baseline survey

The results of the 2011 Baseline Survey suggest that there is potential to benefit from greater use of mobile phones in agricultural marketing because a large number of farmers own mobile phones, farmers do not have good sources of information on agricultural markets, and markets are relatively competitive.

The data did not show clear distinction between “subsistence” and “commercial” farmers. In Ghana, a median interviewed households sold 34% of their crop production whereas in Uganda 38% of a median households crop production was sold. In both countries, about 90% of sales were to traders, with consumers accounting for most of the rest. In Uganda, most sales took place at the farm, whereas in Ghana most sales involved the farmer bringing the product to market.

In both counties a large majority of interviewed farmers were able to choose between multiple buyers for their crop. Most farmers (55% in Ghana and 68% in Uganda) reported that the buyer was selected based on the best price offer. Other reasons than the best price or the possibility of immediate payment were cited by only 15% farmers. This suggests that the surveyed farm-households in Ghana and Uganda would be able to negotiate between several buyers to receive the best price for their products.

Use of mobile phones could be beneficial for the farmers

Although majority of farm households owned a mobile phone, they were not widely used to obtain market information. A majority of farmers in the two countries own mobile phones (62% in Ghana and 72% in Uganda), but only about one-quarter of owners used it to gather market information. Households owning mobile phones tended to have more members, higher income, and more education than households not owning the phone. Therefore, there is potential to increase the use of mobile phones during the sale process of agricultural products.

Another aspect which supports the view that the use of mobile phones could be beneficial is that less than half of farmers in both countries felt well-informed about agricultural prices. This share was even smaller among small-scale farmers. Hence, mobile technologies have the potential to generate additional income to farm households in these countries.

The benefits of using mobile phones in agricultural marketing will be obtained by comparing the baseline results and endline results in each country. The endline survey in Uganda will be carried out in September of this year.

Text: Jarkko Niemi, Luke