By: Appolinaire Tagne
Agriculture is the back bone of the economy of many developing countries, and these activities have a direct impact on their Gross National Product (GNP); with the distribution of roles in society in the western region of Cameroon, women are highly involved in the production of food crop.
Farmers, and particularly female farmers of the western highland region of Cameroon, lack good market information, and for this reason they are obliged to accept the low prices paid by "buyers and sellers" (these are the middle agents). In addition, information from agricultural advisory systems and research is not well disseminated. Under the GenARDIS round (PDF), three small grant projects were aimed at facilitating the access to such information through the use of ICT, and especially the mobile telephone.
The activities were conducted in 2009 at Kamna, Bafoussam, Bagang and Santa in the Western region of Cameroon. The learning approach was sensitization and practical training. The practice involved 3 sub-topics:
- the access to prices of input including fertilizers and pesticides,
- the access to technological packages (advices, improved seeds for maize) and
- the increase of bargaining power of producing farmers.
At stage 0 of the project the reference situation was established through interviews, which demonstrated that none of the members from the women group had use mobile telephony for the exchange of market information. Women farmers were sensitized using the focus group.
At the completion of the sensitization some men who have learned about the project through their wife's and relatives decided to join. Women were very attentive during the sensitization. As practical output the use of mobile phone facilitated the access to market information on fertilizers and pesticides from an Agric Input Store. Farmers like Maman Monique were able to request the price of fertilizers from the Agric input store before purchasing; many women groups gained about 300 Francs CFA, after buying maize seeds from the Institute of Agricultural Research at a subsidized price of 300 CFA compared to the price of 600 Francs CFA at the normal open market. Farmers were really satisfied and were excited to apply the same during the future years.
The use of mobile telephony helped to obtain information about improved varietiesincluding maize seeds from extension or research and also, to facilitate access to subsidies prices. The use of mobile phones to obtain market information from big markets contributed also to the increase of the bargaining power women farmers.
Our project was an effort towards the recommendation of Gertrudes Macueve et al. who studied "Women’s use of information and communication technologies in Mozambique" and recommended that institutions involved in ICT and women’s development and empowerment have to make great efforts to provide content in formats usable by rural women, by placing more emphasis on capabilities and socio-economic issues that rural women valued.These issues include prices, agricultural production methods and family well-being. (http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-135944-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html).
We concluded that: ICT, and especially mobile telephony, helps farmers to obtain information about the prices of input. The same tool is useful for the access of information from the agricultural services and research where input such a seed could be found at subsidies prices. Mobile phones can also help farmers to get market information about their product from big cities thereby increasing their bargaining power during the sale of their product to dealers.
The way forward includes the possibility of extending such activities in other agricultural areas in Cameroon. Farmers free telephone lines are also to be suggested to policy makers. Further development of the dissemination of market information as well as agricultural advisory through sms and rural computer centers should be investigated.
Appolinaire Tagne participated in the Genardis round 3, and currently works on the use of ICT (especifically mobile telephony) for the promotion of agricultural market information.