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New mobile service could enhance rural farming operations

A new information platform for farmers could help increase food productivity and improve sales in the agricultural sector across parts of Africa

According to Mercy Corps, the financiers behind the US$3mn AgriFin mobile project in Zimbabwe and Uganda, smallholder farmers would be able to raise their productivity by improving their access to vital information.

“Access to mobile phone networks is growing dramatically in rural areas of developing countries,” said Leesa Shrader, senior director of Financial Innovations at Mercy Corps.

“We want to use the phone as a powerful channel of communication to access vital and up-to-date market and financial services information.”

The three-year pilot project will attempt to bring together all the essential agricultural production and financial information on SMS-based platforms for the benefit of rural and small farming operations.

Stephen Musoke, AgriFin Mobile programme coordinator in Uganda, said Agrilife would provide financing for vital information such as as farmers' financial and supply chain data, and their production capabilities.

“This is just the first step. Now we need to get the farmers and other relationships onboard, including the input dealers. We need to gain access to their production relationships to make the farmer the boss,” explained Musoke.