Ghana: Vegetable farmers use mobile phones to access extension services and better markets

November 24, 2019
A translation for this article is available in French

It’s a Friday morning full of heat. But Florence Abakah and dozens of other female vegetable farmers are working on their farms with joy and enthusiasm. The greenery on their farms includes vegetables such as tomatoes, pepper, cabbage, okra, and eggplants, all planted neatly in rows.

Together, the women of the Vegetable Farmers Association, or VeFA, are handpicking and clearing weeds along a narrow path that connects acres of vegetable farms. With a hoe dangling around her neck and a water bottle tied to her waist, 46-year-old Ms. Abakah says the women are growing vegetables in order to overcome challenges they face in society.

She explains: “Farming is the only business for us because we did not get access to formal education. Farming was handed over to us by our fathers.… So, no matter what, we have to do it to be able to support our families.”

Ms. Abakah and the other vegetable farmers in VeFA come from Assin Homaho, a predominantly farming community in the Assin South district of Ghana’s Central Region. In the past, the women’s yields were poor. The lack of extension workers in the area meant that they were unaware of good growing practices for vegetables.

To deal with this challenge, the farmers are now using mobile phones to access extension advice on vegetable farming from the Ministry of Agriculture. They also use their phones to find markets.

Ms. Abakah explains: “The power of technology through mobile phones has helped in solving the problem of [the] low ratio of extension workers to farmers. The mobile phone connects the farmer and extension worker and it provides avenues for farmer-to-farmer extension services.”

VeFA members are now using a combination of mobile apps, pictures, videos, SMS, and voice recordings to receive daily information and updates on vegetable farming.

Before they started using their phones, the farmers had to make a huge effort to access good information. Ms. Abakah explains, “Farmers here had to trek for a nine-kilometre journey to explain and seek advice from extension workers on what was happening in their farms.”

Esi Atanfo-Odompo is a member of VeFA. She says that mobile phones have eased information flow among vegetable farming stakeholders and are playing an important role in marketing vegetables, accessing markets, and making payments.

Ms. Atanfo-Odompo says: “Through … mobile money services, we no longer carry our farm produce to the local markets directly. We only alert the buyers of the vegetable quantities and the time. The traders immediately send trucks to pick them and pay the agreed prices via mobile money.”

She says this is a more convenient and less stressful way to market and receive payments—and it also eases the risks and challenges of transportation.

Jacob De-Graft Sackey is the district director of agriculture. He says that VeFA’s success in using mobile phones will be used as a reference point to sensitize other communities to adopt these methods and increase productivity.

Because of mobile phones, Ms. Abakah says that her productivity and marketing improved last season. She explains: “I sold over 57 bags of pepper at 6,096 Ghanaian Cedi ($1,093 US) and 70 bags of cabbage at 25,396 Ghanaian Cedi ($4,553 US) compared to what I earned the previous year when I sold 13 bags of pepper at 2,034 Ghanaian Cedi ($365 US) and 23 bags of cabbage at 8,129 Ghanaian Cedi ($1,457 US).”

This story was developed with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.