Farmers Union of Malawi recently launched a Communication Platform at a high level function that took place at the Capital Hotel Marquee in Lilongwe.
About the Communication Platform
The FUM Communication Platform is an internet based product that is able to send bulk short messages to farmers that have their mobile phone numbers uploaded into the system. FUM is managing the platform in partnership with Agriculture Commodity Exchange for Africa (ACE). Through the platform FUM is able to send information to farmers at a click of a button. Information ranges from crop production techniques such as plant spacing, fertilizer application, storage; market information related to input suppliers, prices of inputs. The platform bridges the information gap that has existed between farmers and other value chain actors like private companies and extension advisory service providers. The platform is cheap and easy to verify.
Why Use the Communication Platform?
Agriculture commercialization in Malawi has been impeded by a myriad of factors including limited access to information by farmers and other actors in the agriculture value chains. This has led to poor crop productivity and weak business and market linkages that could otherwise spur growth and structured marketing of agriculture commodities. Information gap limits adoption of available modern technologies and access to input and output markets.
As farming is becoming a more time-critical and information-intense business, a push towards higher productivity will require information-based decision-making agricultural systems. Therefore, farmers must get information at the right time, place and format. The communication platform provides space for more targeted messages reaching out to farmers that progressive.
The Short Message Service (SMS) Platform
This allows all actors in agriculture value chains to provide farmers with farm management updates faster and at low cost through SMS and mobile surveys. This is to ensure that farmers receive the right information for increased yields and linkages to markets, financial lending institutions as well as weather updates. It also helps buyers to know where to find specific commodities they may be looking for.
By utilizing mobile phones, the SMS platform provides a valuable link for farmers and all commodity value chains actors to benefit. The SMS Platform therefore acts as a game-changer in the agriculture values chains.
Potential Benefits for the SMS Platform
- Increase in productivity and incomes primarily for farmers
- Access to market information which includes indicative prices of particular crops
- Access to agriculture financing from financial lending institutions and other players.
Who will receive the information?
The Platform has contacts of leaders of farmer organizations representing major commodities such as legumes, dairy, cotton, coffee, tea, sugar, beef, and others and District Farmer Unions (DFU) leaders from all Extension Planning Areas (EPAs)in Malawi.
Who will use this communication platform?
- Individual farmers, farmer organizations
- Farm input suppliers (seed, fertilizer, agri-chemicals etc)
- Commercial traders, companies and agro-processors
- Commercial banks and micro-financing institutions
- Extension service providers such as government, NGOs
- Chain consumer stores that are involved in retailing fresh farm produce.