The International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) are offering a one-week international workshop in Arusha, Tanzania, on 8-12 December, 2014. The main objectives of the workshop are to examine and assess the factors, constraints and options to be considered in developing and promoting inclusive agricultural Market Information Systems (MIS) that service sustainably the farmers’ needs.
In addition, on 9 and 11 December, CTA organises "Plug & Play" days. The intention of these sessions is to showcase a range of ICT solution and mobile platforms developed and implemented to manage MIS. These Plug & Play days will be conducted for a few hours during two of the conference days to integrate theories with practice.
How can MIS help farmers?
Access to reliable market information helps farmers become better managers by assisting them in planning production to meet market demand and negotiate prices on a more ‘even footing’ with wholesalers and retailers. Wholesalers and retailers also derive benefits from improved market information with regard to procurement, marketing and distribution. Improved information allows traders to move agricultural inputs and produce from surplus to deficit areas and make financial decisions about maintaining stock.
Market information tends to reduce the risks and lower the transaction costs of farmers and other actors participating in the agricultural value chains. These efficiency gains can lead to increased participation in the agricultural value chains and greater stability of prices and supply/demand. More efficient and transparent agricultural markets benefit all of the value chain actors (growers, traders, investors, policymakers, processors and consumers) and can favorably improve the agro-business management across the value chain. When market information is not transparent, one group of participants involved in the exchange of a particular commodity will have better access to information and hence greater bargaining power than the others, and will use it to their own advantage.
Global telecommunications provide an opportunity to democratise information processes
MIS have tremendously evolved in the last decade due to the increase in the availability and use of cell phones and Internet, which are transforming the agribusiness landscape in Africa. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of mobile phone subscribers has accelerated to reach nearly 750 million with an impressive 38 percent compound annual growth rate (based on ITU data accessed on October 30, 2013). Also, during the same period, the percentage of Internet users has increased annually by 27 percent. Studies have shown that the mobile phone-based MIS models have high potential to improve market information flows on price, quality and quantities between traders and producers directly without the intermediation of the middle-men.
More importantly, they are able to empower farmers and allow them to negotiate better market prices for their crops and increase their income. Beyond market data collection, processing and dissemination, the new generation of mobile platforms have evolved to include services such as agricultural extension and advisory services and mobile financial services (banking, saving, credit, remittances and payments), reducing transaction costs and risks traditionally associated with the investments in the agricultural value chains. In some cases, these emerging ICT platform solutions have been successfully developed and have contributed to more inclusive market information systems and agricultural value chains. In other cases, their introduction has not been successful for several technical, financial, commercial and political reasons.
MIS has a positive impact on the value chain
Among the different activities carried out in support of agricultural and rural development, IFDC, EAGC and CTA work with MIS to provide reliable and timely information to involved stakeholders across the value chain. In addition to promoting market transparency for the benefit of all the actors in the value chain, these initiatives consolidate the links between the various segments of agricultural activities and services in order to improve productivity, business and the performance of the value chain.