Knowledge is power, and vegetable growers in the Arusha region of Tanzania just got a little stronger with the launch of VegOneX, an SMS/radio vegetable price information service developed by AVRDC — The World Vegetable Center.
Competitive market systems require sellers and buyers to be well informed about supply, demand and prices. Price collusion and other exploitative practices can occur when markets lack transparency and one party has more or better information than the others.
In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers often experience difficulty obtaining accurate information from traders and wholesalers. Without up-to-date details about market fluctuations, farmers may end up selling their produce at lower prices.
Prices are determined by vegetable supply and demand; they fluctuate because the crops are perishable. Vegetable farmers are vulnerable due to the volatility of fresh produce prices. VegOneX aims to help rectify that situation by ensuring vegetable farmers have the necessary information to make good crop management decisions and to obtain fair prices for their crops.
This is part of a story in Fresh, the newsletter of AVRDC — The World Vegetable Center. VegOneX is the result of a unique partnership between AVRDC, FRI and Radio 5 in Arusha that is meeting farmers’ need for more market information by using radio and SMS text messaging to provide thousands of farmers with up-to-date market prices.
Agricultural economists with AVRDC collect daily vegetable prices and other information on the costs associated with marketing vegetables. These costs are aggregated and shared with Radio 5 and FRI each week.
Radio 5 shares the price information over the air and via text messaging — promoting their service with a jingle in each episode. The service allows farmers to text the name of the crop — for example “nyanya” (tomato) — to 0789212110 and receive a reply message with the price offered that week. The reply message includes another 10-digit number farmers can call to listen to a recorded message with further information on the costs associated with selling at the market.
Radio 5 is well-positioned to support AVRDC in broadcasting market prices as they are currently on air with an with support from Farm Radio International and Irish Aid. The Radio 5 program is aimed at empowering farmers with indispensable information and many opportunities to share questions, comments and experiences. FRI is working with Radio 5 to build the interactivity, entertainment and sustainability of the program.
Market information is an important addition to the program, as it supports small-scale farmers looking to improve the income they receive from their harvest. By providing farmers with this price and marketing information, farmers can better understand the best time to sell their crop and what costs are associated with farming as a business.