Much of Africa still suffers from poor telecommunication and transportation infrastructures. Consequently, availability of timely market information regarding agricultural commodities and pricing have suffered. In lieu of more highly developed electronic systems, manual systems are in place to help facilitate the collection of prices and quantities of popularly traded agricultural products. Until recently, this information would be compiled and disseminated slowly and inconveniently to trading agencies, farm operators and government agencies through newspapers, radio broadcasts, trading agencies, farm operators and government agencies.
Information and Communications Technology For African Farmers
Throughout Africa, information and communications technology systems (ICTs) using landlines and wireless carriers are also quickly being built. These ICTs allow the integration of computers and servers as well as enterprise software, middleware, and storage devices that provide for the computation, transmission and manipulation of data. The implementation of this new technology has been particularly well received in the fields of fishing and agriculture where faster and more accessible communication has been in great demand.
At present, there are two major projects in East Africa that seek to further adopt the role of technology to the needs of agricultural markets. In Kenya, SMS Sokoni offers a low cost subscription service that delivers agricultural market information using cell phone text messaging. This service provides valuable information to Kenya’s small farmers who constantly struggle to get fair prices for their crops. Throughout Africa, small farmers have lacked access to data on trends and prices that are important when negotiating prices.
The SMS Sokoni messaging system is operated by a private entity called Kenya Agricultural Commodities Exchange (KACE). KACE operates information centers and kiosks in commodity markets and are staffed with researchers who collect and compile pricing and availability information before it is translated into various languages and disseminated to subscribers.
Another text messaging system developed for farmers in Africa was started by the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET). WOUGNET is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that seeks to develop the use of (ICTs) in order to address national and local problems of sustainable development. In 2005, WOUGNET began texting market prices to 400 rural farmers. Today, workers collect market data and provide professional translation into local languages and post it online and send it by SMS to farmers.