Farmerline Ltd

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Farmerline Ltd: Improving the Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers through ICT

Kumasi, Sunyani, Tamale, Tarkoradi, GhanaKumasi, Ghana
Year Founded:
2012
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Established
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

According to Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, small farmers account for about 80% of domestic food production, with an average farm size of about 1.2 hectares and low use of improved technology.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

Mobile phones are the best tools to help farmers access expert agricultural information to increase their production
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

According to Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, small farmers account for about 80% of domestic food production, with an average farm size of about 1.2 hectares and low use of improved technology. The country’s agriculture is characterized by low crop and animal productivity, and gaps between achievable yields (under best farmer practices) and actual yields can be over 50%. Smallholder farmers in particular suffer from low yields.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Farmerline bridges the information gap by providing a seasonal subscription service that offers small farmers access via their mobile phones to critical agricultural information, all in their local language (and by voice for those customers that have low-literacy) for easy understanding. Mobile phones have proven to be the one of the most important tools for business development in emerging markets, and there has been unprecedented, rapid growth in mobile phone adoption in Africa within the last five years. While it’s increasingly becoming the best channel for communication among the people at the bottom of the pyramid, there is a wide illiteracy gap, making it difficult and expensive to communicate via SMS.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

90% of all farmers in Ghana are smallholders, many of whom are women who live in rural areas. Nasara is a Woman Soy Bean Farmer. She faces so many obstacles as a result of her location and farming venture. She suffers from low yield and high post-harvest loss because she is not able to receive timely and locally relevant agricultural information.With the high mobile phone penetration in Ghana, She receives timely and updated information, 5 times a week on her "dumb" mobile phone to keep her informed throughout the farming season. She is also able to call a helpline to ask follow up questions after receiving the tips. She increase her yield quality and income from listening to the tips in her local language.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In March 2013, over 2000 farmers have received improved information which enhanced their knowledge leading to increased productivity, income and improved their standards of living. Moreover, farmers have always been supported through Farmerline's information services and ready market leading to maximized profit. Farmerline in partnership with a PhD candidate from McMaster University,Canada conducted Impact assessment which indicated that farmers using our services increased their yields by 10% and their income by 20% per acre. Agribusinesses and development organizations using Farmerline's voice technology for communication and data collection from illiterate communities spend cheaper costs as compared to traditional in-person techniques. Over the next 5 years, Farmerline is estimated to reach 400,000 farmers aiming to achieve 50% increase in income per acre.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Farmerline projects to reach 2 million farmers over the next 10 years and also aim to achieve 80% increase in income per acre and 90% field sustainability across West Africa. Farmerline is creating a partnership program that allows individuals and businesses to set up and run Farmerline's technology and content within their country without any technical knowledge. Farmerline support its potential partners with the technology, certification and maintenance. They will only have to market the service to agribusinesses and governments. The partner will only have to pay for a licensing fee.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Farmerline's main sources of finance will be through revenues generated from selling its services to farmers,grant from Indigo Trust and equity investment from Impact investors like Invested Development and Aqua Spark. Last year, Farmerline generated $52,000 in revenue. This year, we are estimating reaching 10,000 farmers with revenue of over $200,000 by march 2015. $80,000 revenue is already generated in the second quarter of 2014.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are two active (Esoko and mfarms) mobile SMS applications that try to provide content for these farmers and measure impact via surveys. However, these options do not account for the high illiteracy rate among the smallholder farmer population in countries like Ghana. SMS price alerts, weather updates, input supply, and distribution network connections are not effective if the recipients cannot read them. The second differentiator is that, these platforms were created and mostly attached to NGOs implementing projects, rather than focusing their impact directly on farmers.
Team

Founding Story

From humble beginning, I understand the challenges small- scale farmers in Ghana face daily and the potential agriculture holds in Ghana. My education was greatly funded by the profits my parents made from their farm business. After university, I became so passionate about using my knowledge and experience to support farmers like my parents to succeed so they can fund their children education. I therefore joined Farmerline as the company’s first employee. On behalf of Farmerline, I have trained more than 3,000 small-scale farmers to adopt and benefit from Farmerline’s voice messaging technology.

Team

Alloysius Attah is the CEO of Farmerline and responsible for leading the team to achieve its vision. Alloysius spoke about his work at the Social Capital Markets Conference, 2013 and Mobile World Congress 2014. He is a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow. Worlali Senyo is the Farmerline director of Business Development and is currently based in Accra, Ghana. He manages Farmerline’s client and partner relationships by organizing presentationd
About You
Organization:
Farmerline Ltd
About You
First Name

Schandorf

Last Name

Adu Bright

About Your Project
Organization Name

Farmerline Ltd

How long has your organization been operating?

Project
Organization Country

Ghana, Kumasi

Country where this project is creating social impact

Ghana, Kumasi, Sunyani, Tamale, Tarkoradi

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Foundations, NGOs, Businesses, Regional government, National government, Customers.

Supplemental
Awards: What awards or honors has your solution received, if any?

CTA top 20 applications benefitting small-scale farmers
Winner, World Bank and InfoDev mAgri Challenge
Winner, Social App of the year, Top App Award
Winner, World Summit Youth Award
Indigo Trust Grant Award
Winner, US Department of State Apps4Africa Climate Change Competition
Apps4Africa Climate Change Competition

Tell us about your partnerships

The first points of contact are the national and international agencies, NGOs, MoFA, and agricultural departments. These act as intermediaries between the Farmerline platform and the smallholder farmers in order to facilitate farmer subscription. Farmerline has partnered MEDA, Indigo Trust, AFRINIC and AQUAFISH to train small-scale farmers through face-to-face meetings and presentations that outline the benefits of our service. Through these partnerships, Farmerline sends weekly reminders to over 2,000 farmers in Ghana on new farming techniques, market access, finances and weather forecast which are received as phone calls in their own local language. TAHMO is also another partner of Farmerline for a two-year project to set up a water and weather monitoring system in Ghana’s cocoa region. In line with our vision to expand across Africa, Farmerline is in strategic talks with organizations that particularly focus on agricultural development across Africa. Some of our discussions are in advanced stages and we looking to engage in further partnerships.

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Farmer availability and rural mobile connectivity
While mobile service coverage has exploded across African countries, rural farmers are often still on the edges of reliable service, and may not even have reliable electricity for keeping their phone charged. Network saturation is also a common issue on the leading network in Ghana, where a phone number must be dialed several times before actually connecting. Finally, on the human design side, it must be recognized that farmers are hard-working, busy people: they are not always free. To improve delivery in these conditions, we created intelligent retry patterns for outgoing messages, which optimize the chance of connecting even if the farmers phone is unavailable on the first try. We also allow farmers to choose the best time of day to receive calls.
Phone Ownership
About 75% of farmers in Africa own a mobile phone. This number makes a great case for engaging farmers through the mobile phone. We reach the rest of the farming population without mobile phones by training lead farmers in their communities to deliver information to them.

How does your idea help young people create bright futures and improve opportunities for meaningful and long-term careers?

By 2050, the projected 9.2 billion world population will require a 70% increase in food production. Engaging and employing youth in agriculture is vital in addressing the challenge of food security. Farmerline’s services provide financial assistance, weather forecast, new and improved farming techniques and market access that help farmers to create thriving businesses and create job opportunities for youth. Young people in Ghana have observed how Farmerline’s services have positively impacted local farmers. The success of these local farms has helped many young people to embrace agriculture as a sustainable wealth-creation enterprise. Farmerline encourages young people to start their own businesses in the agricultural sector. As a part of Farmerline’s growth and competitive strategy, we also build partnerships that allow young people to build services on our platform, deliver tailored solutions to help farmers, and create jobs. Lastly, Farmerline’s free empowerment forums are building a network of young entrepreneurs. This platform also helps youth to collaborate and create jobs for themselves and others.

Target Age Group(s): What age group(s) do(es) your solution target through it's programming?

18-35, 36-64, 65+.

Intervention Focus: Identify which of the following best explain key parts of your solution

Job Creation, Entrepreneurship, Training/Skill Development, Financing, Rural Economies.

Do you have separate programs or initiatives that target the following types of populations?

Boys/Men, Girls/Women.

Impact - Reach: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

1,001 to 10,000

Number of People Directly Employed by Your Organization

10-100

Number of Volunteers

10-100

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below? Select a theme below that most applies to your work. If none of them do, no problem, you can skip this question.

Create New Industries: recognize opportunities in the marketplace to build new professions or new markets

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers? Select a theme below that most applies to your work. If none of them do, no problem, you can skip this question.

Job creation lacks adequate coordination between the government, private sector and development organizations