Tanzania Daily News
By Masembe Tambwe, 28 October 2013
WHAT has been giving millions of farmers in Tanzania and the rest of Africa headaches and sleepless nights -- mainly the lack of transparent information about the prices of crops for decades -- is now being asked by simple clicks on their mobile phones.
Mobile phone technologies are presenting Africa's smallholder farmers with an unprecedented opportunity to run their operations more productively and to grow their own income levels.
Private companies, up and coming information technology entrepreneurs, NGOs as well as governments are all involved in a variety of mobile phonebased products, services and applications, small software programmes that users can access on their handsets, aimed at boosting small scale agriculture. According to a document published by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), some of the first services were launched as early as 2002.
The success of these earlier services has, however, been haphazard, largely because of lower mobile penetration rates at that stage as well as a lack of a viable business plans behind many of the projects. The IST-Africa website cites that today, the mobile telephone market is one of the fastest growing sector, moreover, mobile subscriber base has been rising from 15 million people in 2009 to 20.9 million which is equal to an increase of 27.5 per cent of the mobile subscribers per year. This shows that mobile phone penetration is growing at a considerable rate.
Out of the 20.7 million mobile phone subscribers, only 4.8 million (25 per cent) of the subscriber's access and use internet with mobile internet having more users about 2.2 (45.4 per cent of the internet users) million users. Tigo Tanzania recently launched its Tigo Kilimo product for farmers, which gives weather information, market prices and agronomy tips.
A pilot project was launched in April 2012 in Morogoro Region and it is a SMS-based application which presents small-scale farmers in Tanzania to run their operations more productively and the farmers get real-time information. Tigo Special Programme Manager, Mr Yaya N'Djore said that they already had over 40,000 subscribers of the service and that though the service has yet to reach the interior of the country, there are plans already underway to do so.
"Farmers' biggest complaint revolves around market prices, they are demanding for this to be timely and readily available. We are currently working on modalities with the Ministry of Industry and Trade such that we sort this out.