How Esoko bridges the information gap faced by farmers across Africa

Kojo is a smallholder farmer in Ghana. He grows tomato to feed his family and to barter for other produce like sugar, potatoes and chickens.

Like most small farmers in Ghana and the rest of the continent, opportunities to sell their crops for cash are few and far between.

Although many things can be bartered for with food, things like healthcare and education can not.

Small farmers face a range of challenges when trying to sell their crops. One problem is that farmers often struggle to decide what crops to grow, as they have limited knowledge of current market trends.

Making a decision to plant a crop without understanding what the selling price will be in six months when its time to harvest puts farmers at great economic risk.

Another problem farmer’s face is selling their crops at the local markets as transportation is often costly and it is a gamble, as farmers pay to transport their crops without knowing the market demand or value.

What most farmers do as a result is sell to local traders who then either sell at the markets or to other traders. Unfortunately, these traders often take advantage of them with low offers for their produce. Desperate for money, the farmer sells, unaware of what the price should be.

To change these dynamics farmers need consistent, accurate information about the supply chain they are part of.

Mobile phones are now as common as a plough for most farmers. This simple tool offers new opportunities to make information accessible in the remotest of places.

Esoko, a Ghanaian innovation, uses a simple text messaging system and online platforms to bridge the information gap faced by farmers across Africa.

What Esoko does is provide: Current local market prices; a matchmaking service that connects buyers and sellers; and weather forecasts with news and tips for farmers.

Armed with affordable, up-to-date quality information, farmers like Kojo are able to participate in the food economy as an equal shareholder. Farmers are now able to make informed decisions and increase their income.

Based on two independent studies, farmers using Esoko are earning 10%-30% more income per annum.

With over 60% people earning their primary income from small farm production in Africa, this simple mobile service has the potential to make an extraordinary contribution to their lives.

This article is published in association with Talking Heads, a pan-African knowledge-sharing platform. Through live events, audio casts and videos, Talking Heads gives the continent’s thought leaders, social disruptors and change makers a public platform to share their ideas and experiences, demanding we think differently about who and what it means to be African.