When we want to find out what the weather will be like tomorrow, or how best to look after our plants, we can usually just find an answer by looking it up on a search engine. But what if we couldn't receive that information because we didn't have internet access, because the information was written in a language we didn't understand, or because we couldn't read or write? Faced with all of these problems, farmers in Ghana have received a helping hand from Alloysius Attah: Farmerline.
What Do Farmers Need to Get Involved?
In order to be able to access the information provided by Farmerline, all that's needed is a mobile phone. And in the 28 million-strong country, there are enough of them. Ghana is one of Africa's largest mobile phone markets, with over 34 million customers: 119 per cent of the population. This is partly due to the fact that one person often owns several SIM cards, as the network quality of the providers can vary considerably.
In order to use Farmerline's service, farmers enter the number *399# and can receive information about the weather forecast, the market price of the products they grow and general information about cultivation methods. This information is produced by agricultural advisory bodies and made available as text or voice messages. Illiteracy and unknown languages are no longer an obstacle, as the news is available in nine different West African languages.
Attah started Farmerline five years ago with his business partner Emmanuel Owusu Addai Farmerline. Attah, who grew up on a small farm with his aunt, has experienced the difficulties farmers face in Ghana's rural areas.
This is a translation by Marisa Pettit of an article which first appeared on RESET's German-language site.