Integrating Technology with Agriculture in Ghana

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SEATTLE — Ghana is a country that uses more than half of its land for agriculture. Agriculture in Ghana is the largest source of employment for its people and is dominated by smallholder farmers. USAID’s Feed the Future program is working with the government of Ghana to help the country make progress in its agricultural endeavors, with results such as a $12.8 million increase in rice, maize and soybean sales by Ghanaian farmers between 2012 and 2014.

The poverty rates in the north nearly double that of the south. Feed the Future states that Ghana has achieved an overall reduction in poverty from 52 percent to 28 percent over the past decade.

The proportion of Ghanaians owning cell phones jumped from 8 percent of the population in 2002 to a staggering 83 percent in 2015. To capitalize on this increase, one company is using mobile phones to get important agriculture-related information to farmers all over Ghana. Farmerline’s website describes its mission as “transforming smallholder farmers into successful entrepreneurs by increasing their access to information, inputs, and resources to increase productivity.”

Farmerline gives farmers access to current agriculture education on their mobile phones via voice messages in their local language. It also provides access to global markets and provides an online marketplace where farmers can order supplies and access financial services. The voice messages also hold important information such as weather updates and market prices, and are customized to “location and stage of production.”

Ghanaian CEO and co-founder Alloysius Attah comes from a rural small-scale farming family, where he experienced firsthand the difficulties that farmers in Ghana face. He partnered with Emmanuel Owusu Addai, an accomplished Ghanaian engineer, in 2013 with a mission to help small-scale farmers with the challenges they face throughout Africa. Farmerline has won multiple awards since then for its contribution to agriculture in Ghana and now supports more than 200,000 farmers.

Agriculture in Ghana revolves around animal production just as much as food production. About $4 billion of agricultural income loss in Ghana is attributed to livestock death, and 80 percent of poor families across Africa depend on livestock for their quality of life. Sadly, 30 percent of livestock die every year because of diseases, many of which are easily preventable. A key contributing factor being that most Ghanaian farmers live in remote areas where it is difficult to access veterinary care fast enough to treat a diseased animal.

The Ghanaian company Cowtribe gives farmers and livestock owners an opportunity to access veterinary care within 24 hours with one of its 207 private and public veterinarians throughout Ghana. The company also sends out text alerts to warn farmers about disease outbreaks, remind them when it is time to vaccinate their animals and allow them to view information in even the most remote parts of Africa. Cowtribe ranges across 100 different communities with 11,000 users to date.

Ghana is on a path to reduce poverty. It already reduced levels by about half between 1991 and 2006 — one of Africa’s best records. Ghana’s national economic plan, Ghana Vision 2020, envisions Ghana as the “first African nation to become a developed country between 2020 and 2029 and a newly industrialized country between 2030 and 2039 through the integration of science and technology in governmental programs, including in the agricultural sector.” Agriculture in Ghana is a massive part of that plan, and boosting agribusiness in Ghana will undoubtedly play a huge role in the economy and quality of life for its inhabitants.

Katherine Gallagher

Photo: Google

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