Africa has a large amount of untapped potential in the agricultural market. If resources were utilized correctly, it could feed itself as well as parts of other continents.
Today, Africa still relies on food imports from abroad to feed its rising population. The UN has warned that if African farming continues at its current rate, by 2050 the continent will only be fulfilling 13 percent of its food needs.
Farmers continuously fail to take advantage of the land’s natural advantages due to their lack of access to information on finance and marketing.
In Ghana, there is only one agricultural extension officer for 2,000 farmers. These officers provide farmers with training and information but are unable to communicate with each of them enough to help farmers improve due to a lack of time and resources.
Alloysius Attah, a 26-year-old Ghanaian entrepreneur, has invented an innovative solution to farmers’ lack of access to information that will increase yields and profits of local farmers.
In 2013, he founded the company Farmerline, a phone app that provides smallholder farmers with information in the form of voicemails and text messages.
“Farmers receive important updates on market prices, weather forecasts, financing, input dealers, and farming tips. It also links them to agribusinesses and organizations who have previously struggled to access them” explains How We Made it In Africa.
Farmerline has been successful— in only two years, it is helping 200,000 farmers across Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Nigeria. The company plans to expand across Eastern Africa at the end of 2015.
When Attah initially started his application, he discovered that many of the farmers are illiterate. They could not read text message notifications. “So we moved to voice messages. Now our application sends information to farmers in any language – such as Swahili or any of the local languages in Ghana,” said Attah to African business publication How we Made it in Africa.
The application is engineered specifically for individual farmers. Weather forecasts are reported based on the GPS coordinates of where a farmer’s farm is located. Agronomic this are based around the season of the year as well as the type of crop the farmer is growing.
Attah’s passion for agricultural improvement in Africa began when he was five. He lived with his aunt who was a small-scale, rural farmer in Ghana. He witnessed the problems she and so many others like her faced daily.
In college, Attah stumbled upon an agricultural class. “I actually thought the course was going to be about oil, gas and all that. But I soon realized it was about wildlife, forestry and agriculture. It is like fate somehow placed me in the path of agriculture” he told How We Made It in Africa.
“Coming from a normal rural Ghanaian background of limited resources, to becoming someone who can overcome challenges and use those limited resources to solve problems in society, makes my family and community proud,” said Attah.
The Organization has also received various international awards. Attah won the World Bank and InfoDev mAgri Challenge and World Summit Youth Award and was a 2014 Global Echoing Green Fellow.
– Margaret Anderson