Abel Agbango is a market gardener and has spent the past 12 years carefully cultivating his farmland in Ghana.
The 38-year-old man has no other profession: his vegetable farm is his only means of subsistence.
But Agbango does not care for the moment. His main concern is to access the direct market in urban areas and get a decent price for his products, a problem he still hasn’t found a solution to after all these years.
“We often fail to sell our products at fair prices,” Agbando told DW. “The intermediaries are mostly market women [who] don’t give us fair prices.”
Agbango says he has been unable to change his situation for years.
Smallholder farmers in Ghana say their produce is often priced unfairly in urban markets
“There is nothing we can do about it because [the market women] have direct contact with consumers,” he explained. “It’s a major problem for us.
But a solution for farmers like Agbango may soon be in sight: some young tech entrepreneurs in Ghana are turning their attention to Africa’s agricultural sector. They believe they may hold the key to opening up more opportunities for farmers to get better value for their produce, while tackling post-harvest losses and food insecurity.
Apps are game changers
Several software applications have already flooded Ghana’s burgeoning tech space, with signs that they are already a game-changer for many farmers.
Five years ago, agri-tech company AgroCenta launched an app that allows farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers. They can even upload photos of their products, so the consumer can see what they are buying.
The biggest challenge facing the app is the lack of internet service in remote areas. But the company says it has still reached at least 12,000 farmers.
AgroCenta CEO and co-founder Francis Obirikorang says his company now serves four regions in Ghana.
“We work with 12,000 small farmers,” he told DW. “We are making a monthly income of $50,000 (€50,000), connecting these 12,000 smallholder farmers to five main buyers. »
AgroCenta recently announced that it was looking to expand its service across Ghana’s borders to other parts of Africa. But they already face competition in Ghana.
Team up for a solution
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Ghana Institute of Science and Technology Information brought together a group of software engineers to help create mobile and web applications that would not only help farmers to fetch a good price, but also agricultural input shops and traders.
The result: Kuafo MarketPlace, an online platform developed under the Ghana Agriculture Modernization (MAG) program under CSIR, which also helps prevent fraud and enables traceability.
To connect to the platform, users must first become a member of a registered farmers’ organization (FO) or be verified by the platform managers themselves.
The app also has a feature that allows potential buyers to directly contact the seller of any product before a deal can be agreed.
Michael Wilson, who was part of the innovation team, told DW that one of the main aims of the project was to “make farming lucrative, especially for young people”.
Beyond that, Wilson and the other developers also want to “address some of the problems plaguing the world, including Ghana.”
“We realized that there is post-harvest loss, and most of these post-harvest losses are attributed to the inability of the food produced to reach markets or consumers,” he explained.
Farmers already feel relieved
Many farmers are already benefiting from using these apps: their incomes are increasing and they are less concerned about food insecurity. Last year, Agbango also decided to switch to using apps to sell its vegetables.
He used to sell less than $1,000 worth of product per quarter. Now he earns a lot more, telling DW that “the app helps me a lot.”
“Before produce is ready to harvest, we take photos of it and place it on the app for consumers to view and order,” he said.
“The app has really helped not only to get fair prices, but also to reduce our post-harvest losses.”
According to the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture, post-harvest losses account for 30-40% of food waste in Ghana.
With these kinds of results, the potential for boosting Ghana’s agricultural sector could become enormous in the years to come, as these technological solutions continue to develop and improve.
Edited by: Ineke Mules