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Esoko Press Release

Is voice the answer? New study looks to see how call centers can improve farmer incomes

November 1st, 2014  

 


Accra, Ghana – Across the developing world smallholder farmers often outnumber in-field extension workers by an impossible 2,000 to 1. At the same time, farmers are struggling with using ever-more sophisticated seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. In the face of these realities, agricultural extension services are looking towards technology to better distribute much-needed tips, best practices and marketing information.

 

One of these technology solutions is the agriculture call center, meant to extend resources over a larger number of farmers, be easily accessible, and be financially self-sustaining through payment for services.

 

To better understand the effectiveness of these call centers, a study which began in July is looking at call centers in Ghana and Bangladesh to better understand the best technologies, information systems and product packages to best serve farmers.  The study is being implemented by the University of California, Davis through the USAID supported MEAS project. MEAS is managed by University of Illinois at Urbana-

Champaign.

Two leaders in this emerging field - Esoko and the Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) -were chosen for this study. Esoko operates both an SMS-based communications platform as well as an agricultural call center in Ghana. BIID operates an initiative called e-Krishok, which uses ICTs to connect farmers with advisory services and market prices in Bangladesh.

 

The research focuses on farmers’ need for and ability to access agriculture information via mobile phones.  The call center products, information points and delivery systems are also being assessed. Finally, the study will examine farmers’ willingness to pay for agriculture call center services, as well as any possible increases in on-farm profits as a result of using the call center.

 

“It’s an incredibly exciting study. Agricultural call centers have the potential to improve the lives of farmers everywhere” says Erin McGuire, Evaluation Specialist and researcher at UC Davis. “We plan to share our findings widely so that other call centers across the developing world can benefit.” 

 

Final results are expected in early 2015.


 

 

About Esoko

Esoko was established in Ghana in 2005, providing a technical solution to collect and share market prices via SMS. Since then it has grown into a sophisticated platform helping organizations connect with hard to reach farmers across the African continent. Esoko uniquely provides an entire ecosystem to make this work, including the content, software and field support.  A private initiative, our mission is to make agriculture a profitable business for smallholder farmers.

About MEAS

The USAID funded Modernizing Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) project aims to support the transformation and modernizing of extension systems, so they can play a key role in improving the income of farmers while improving the quality of life of the rural population, especially women.

 

About USAID

The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance programs providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.

 

For more information, please contact:  

Erin McGuire, UC Davis: ejmcguire@ucdavis.edu or David Aduama, Esoko: david@esoko.com

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