Business News of 2014-02-21

Esoko launches Ghana’s first farmer helpline

Esoko Ghana has launched Ghana First Farmer Helpline, where farmers and anyone could dial 1900 at regular call rate and get answers from a group of agricultural experts available on call.

Topics covered include diseases and pests, post-harvest issues, storage, use of pesticides, fertilizers and others. Currently eight operators are on standby to cover about 10 commodities in depth, but there plans to cover up to 25 commodities by the close of the year.

Across Africa, farmers are struggling with using ever-more sophisticated seeds, pesticides and fertilizers, and with many depending on the rains for their livelihoods, they are trying to manage an increasingly unpredictable weather cycle. Public extension services are struggling to keep up, sometimes with one officer serving as many as 3,000 farmers. And with a growing world population, food security and nutrition has never been more important.

Esoko’s Farmer Helpline Manager, Mary Naah said “It is really exciting to find during that pilot that some farmers called in to find out whether it will rain in Tumu on Saturday, and some even asked ‘When do I plant?’ She said the pilot also brought up questions like “Where can I find pesticides?” “What do I do if the rains haven’t fallen…?” and many more.

Naah said those helped the team to make the service even more relevant to the needs of farmers, adding that team is also very much inspired to help women farmers especially, because they are often less able to get support and advice.

“There’s a lot of hype out there about how smartphones and SMS services can help farmers but really you’ve got to go back to basics and offer them answers in their own language from dedicated professionals they can trust, “ says Mark Davies, Esoko CEO.

He believes Farmer Helpline is an essential complement to any type of SMS program being offered by Esoko and other service providers. The Esoko farmer helpline is currently available on 1900 on Vodafone, MTN, and Airtel at a regular call rate. Tigo and Glo will be added later this year. Languages available are Dagbani, Mampruli, Twi, Kusaal, Frafra, Sissali, Dagaari, Wali, Ewe, Ga, Fante and Hausa.

Commodities covered are Maize, Rice, Soya, Sorghum, Tomatoes, Cassava, Yam, Mango, Sheanuts, Cowpea among others.

Esoko is doing this in partnership with CABI, CSIR, IFDC, MOFA and others to provide the very latest agricultural information and best practices “The call centre is available in twelve local languages, and it is open from 8am to 5pm every day,” a statement from Esoko said.

Source: Adomonline
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