Young Entrepreneurs Awards: Alloysius Attah
Alloysius Attah set up Farmerline, a mobile communications tool that provides agronomic advice and weather forecasts to smallholder farmers in Ghana.
Accessing agricultural information
Growing up in rural Ghana on two acres of land farmed by his aunt, Alloysius experienced first hand the challenges facing the smallholder farmers that account for 80% of Ghana’s domestic food production.
The only way Alloysius’ aunt could get advice on improving her farming practices was on the radio. Fast forward a few years and Farmerline, the business he founded while at university, is helping smallholder farmers, like his aunt, increase yields by providing access to critical agricultural information in their local language via their mobile phones.
Improving farming practices
Farmerline’s technology links farmers to markets, weather information, new farming techniques, finance, inputs and equipment services to increase their productivity and income. The platform provides information using not just text messages but also voice messages, which opens up the service to the large number of smallholder farmers in Ghana who are illiterate.
Traditionally, the kind of advice Farmerline disseminates has been provided by government officers, who are tasked with visiting farming communities in person to share best practices.
However, there is on average only one agent on the ground for every 2,000 farmers, which has resulted in a lack of timely and locally relevant information reaching smallholder farmers, many of whom are women. As a result, farmers suffer from low yield and high post-harvest loss. In Ghana the gap between achievable yields and actual yields can be over 50%.
Increasing productivity & incomes
Farmers pay a small seasonal subscription fee to receive agronomic alerts and use the platform’s dedicated helpline, while government programmes and businesses are able to reach smallholder farmers directly using mobile messaging and surveys. No technical knowledge or hardware investment is required, and the platform works on the most basic feature phones, as well as smart phones.
Since Alloysius launched Farmerline alongside his co-founder Emmanuel Owusu Addai in March 2013, over 4,000 farmers have accessed information which has resulted in increased productivity, elevated income and improved standards of living. Farmerline’s latest impact assessment indicates that farmers who have used its services for an entire season have increased their income by 55.6% per acre.