Alloysuis Attah, the young co-founder of Farmerline Limited, began a pitch at Barcamp Kumasi 2012 (BarCamp Kumasi 2012 is a FREE networking event to bring people together for a day of discussion, demos and dialogue about Kumasi, Ghana and beyond.) by reminding everyone of the fruit juice which everyone had taken that morning and then tactfully related it to the picture of a woman talking on the phone on the Farmerline website: ‘the woman, who is a farmer, probably produced the drink in an obscure corner of the country’, he said. This woman symbolized farmers who represented a whopping sixty percent of the country’s population and have their productivity and livelihood intertwined in mostly very poor conditions of life.
He explained that a field visit by the Farmerline team to Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Kwadaso Agricultural College led to the realization that one extension officer is allocated at least 1000 farmers. This can explain the paradox of how come the most productive component of the economy of a country happen to have some of the poorest livelihoods in the country: Majority of farmers do not have access to information on good farming practices as well as market information to help them sell their products if they somehow manage to grow their crops.
Mr. Alloysuis Attah then demonstrated the sms platform of the application by asking for a volunteer’s mobile phone number and went on to send the volunteer a text message which was immediately received by the volunteer. He also talked about the voice mail platform of the application which consists of the answering of queries from farmers a toll free helpline (short code) in various dialects including Twi, Ga, Ewe and Nzema. The extension officers are able to answer the questions via a web interface and answers sent to farmers as voice sms. Farmers are also able to browse through questions and answers by other farmers using the system.
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He went on to say that farmers’ interest in Farmerline was mostly evident at review sessions and demonstrations (held by the Farmerline team to tutor farmers) when they were being sensitized on how to use the Farmerline application because ‘they felt they were a part of it’. This shows that you can never under-rate the importance of user experience.
The dream of the co-founders (Mr. Alloysuis Attah and Mr. Emmanuel O. Addai) is to enable all farmers to have more say and empower their future. This together with the aim of Farmerline to capture the whole value chain from production to consumption is a herculean task but the young entrepreneurs are not fazed by the enormous and daunting nature of their crusade and hence have chosen to begin their quest at the input stage or primary production stage of the agriculture value chain.
Joshua of Steflan Consult, in appreciation of the Farmerline application, suggested that the co-founders add a feature like ‘info shop’ to their system where farmers without mobile phones or very bad communication network access can still acquire information provided by Farmerline.
In conclusion to his presentation, Alloysuis as he is called at mfriday, said the Farmerline team is open to all human resource available as he does not underestimate the value of experience. The budding and youthful entrepreneur also talked about Farmerline’s invitation to TEDx Accra to present on Farmerline: technology of the Profession of the Future. The event takes place on the 5th of April in Accra, Ghana.