Farmers need a platform where they can get the necessary information and advice on good farming practices. Such a platform will build the capacity of farmers. Given that capacity building and independence of stakeholders is a core aspect of Communication for Development, the platform is a vital need. To meet this need : Esoko.
Esoko is a platform that provides agronomic advice, nutrition advice, market price information, weather information, and market linkage through text and voice messaging. It aims to resolve the challenges of limited market access, knowledge asymmetry, limited access to financial services and unavailable data profiles of agricultural value chains using Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) solutions.
One of these solutions is a Market Information Service (MIS) platform linking producers to off-takers with bids and markets prices via phones, solving limited market access. ICTs help extension services to bridge the knowledge asymmetry with k-plus platform, weather info and agronomic tips. ICTs also offer digital footprints for transactions and credit scoring, access to financial services including insurance to solve the issue of limited access to financial services. Furthermore, as regards to unavailable data profiles of agricultural value chains, ICTs digitalize agricultural value chains to link players for efficient service delivery (DFS).
Esoko’s target audience is smallholder farmers and to reach this group, Esoko works through development initiatives that targets smallholder farmers/grassroots. They also conduct seminars and media publicity to make their services known to partners who have projects that will benefit from their services.
The needs of the stakeholders are accessed through surveys with what Esoko calls “digital profiling”, using a planned approach throughout the general process. Through this approach, farmers’ profiles are collated on Esoko’s database. The profile includes the farmers’ information on farm location, crops cultivated by the farmer, marketing centres and personal details.
Esoko liaised with Farm Africa on a project in Tanzania about sesame. This collaboration developed a platform “knowledge plus” to address poor extension services in Tanzania. This thus shows that the Esoko is a useful initiative in projects for deriving a successful outcome.
Farm Africa is an international organisation working to build a prosperous rural Africa. The organisation helps farmers to increase their harvests, build their incomes and sustain natural resources, partnering with governments and the private sector to find effective ways to fight poverty.
In FAO, Esoko is a necessary communication for development tool, as it deals with stakeholders’ knowledge on ICTs and their engagement in agricultural initiatives for their agricultural sustainable development. The stakeholders have the opportunity to select what category of information they are willing to receive in relations to their farmland. This gives the stakeholders a stronger opinion on their farm produce and market access, because of their prior participation in the agricultural initiative. With stakeholder’s engagement in such agricultural initiative, their capacity on ICTs is stronger, enabling them take charge of their farmland activities hence agronomic advice from Esoko.
Esoko has influenced a great deal of agriculture development. This impact can be seen in about 900,000 households (comprising of about 3.7 million people) having digital profiles and Esoko being integrated into various national programs and social services. In Ghana, Esoko has captured data from 11,760 communities across all districts in Ghana, making these communities visible on maps. In addition, about 1,940 young men and 860 women have been trained in various roles of data digitization and collection are now integrated into the internet revolution and have incomes. Esoko has had 100% improvement in data accuracy rate, from 58% in traditional systems, improving cost benefit ratios and therefore more people to be reached by development interventions.
Thus, it is advised that in carrying out any development initiatives, which involves stakeholders (farmers) and giving them information as regards, Esoko is a good partner to liaise with. This is because this technology is good for collecting and disseminating different types of information on people and markets via smart phone, tablet, web, SMS and voice SMS.
Watch short Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1Y2KaTl4vQ&feature=youtu.be
Read More: http://www.fao.org/e-agriculture/news/esoko-virtual-marketplace-and-data-collection-service
Uloma Mezie-Osuocha is the Communication for Development intern for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Regional Office for Africa in Ghana, working with the Communication for Development team on various project, significantly the Forest and Farm Facility programme. She has an MSc Communication for Development from University of Reading and a B.A History and International Relations from Veritas University Nigeria. She strives to build a career in development sector to help in see the change she envisions, in the world.