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Farmers go to market via cellphones
Senegalese mobile solutions company Manobi, together with Vodacom and Alcatel, has launched a project providing market information via cellphones to farmers at Makuleke in northern Limpopo province.

Daniel Annerose, Manobi founder and GM, says the first phase of the project gives around 100 farmers real-time market information and enables buyers to place orders with the farmers.

Mthobi Tyamzashe, Vodacom director of corporate communications, says the Makuleke community was chosen for the pilot because of its remoteness and lack of access to information infrastructure.

Vodacom and Alcatel have spent around R1.2 million each on the project and Manobi has spent around R2.5 million on the roll-out of the service.
Better quality of life
Thierry Albrand, VP of Alcatel's Digital Bridge, says the project is in line with the Department of Communications' e-Strategy Framework and will open up the possibilities for government and local authorities to provide e-health, e-learning and e-government facilities.

Albrand says the Makuleke project is the second project of this kind that Alcatel and Manobi have tackled. The first was launched in Senegal in 2001 and now has 4 000 Senegalese farmers and fishermen utilising the service.

“In Senegal, market information provided to farmers improved their income to the equivalent of R7 000 per hectare per annum. Applied across Senegal, this translates into more than R14 billion. Applied on the scale of Africa, this would equate to R150 billion annually, which could be re-allocated directly to the rural communities. This is about half of what the United Nations requires to eradicate poverty in the world from 2005 to 2015,” says Annerose.
How it works
Annerose says farmers are able to request information or accept orders via secure SMS, WAP, MMS or Internet connections.

Farmers currently pay only for their data, but in future, Manobi would like to change to a subscription-based model in which farmers pay a set fee and can then use the service as much as they want.

In the second phase of the project, another 100 cellphones and SIM cards will be distributed to farmers in Makuleke and surrounding areas.

Annerose says Manobi plans to roll-out similar projects across SA and the rest of Africa.

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