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The evaluation of mobile phone application upon the smallholder farmer's productivity in East Africa

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Submitted by Kantiza on Wed, 05/12/2012 - 08:05

By Prof Antoine Kantiza, Master Uticef


The research paper emphasizes the key role of mobile application played in East Africa in the increasing of smallholder farmers' income; the study analyzes how the new ICT devices facilitate in the openness and in the transparency of the agricultural information in East Africa where the well-off farmers use regularly their handset in searching market information and for the improvement of farming techniques. In the same way, the paper points out the difficult of evaluating with exactitude the income driven by the adoption of mobile phone in rural community of East Africa.


The smallholder farmers bring more than the three-quart of agricultural production and the same rate is involved in the source of revenue in East Africa as it is known that the agriculture is the foundation of East Africa’s economy according to a study done by Experts of African Development Bank Group (2010), thereby, it is understandable that the growth of global economy and welfare in this area is due to the increase of smallholder’s productivity.The tools of communication like mobile phones used by smallholder farmers in East Africa in the production process have to be performed in order to facilitate them to be efficient in their daily decision making. By the way,  the challenge is to know how to evaluate with exactness the real impacts of mobile phone upon rural farmer’s productivity in order to emphasize its responsibility in boosting the income and the productivity of smallholder farmers of East Africa.


The mobile phone coverage has grown in Africa countries since 1997 for reaching nowadays approximately 60 percent in sub-Saharan area where is located largely the East Africa Community which includes the Burundi; Kenya; Rwanda; Tanzania and Uganda. The exponential adoption of mobile phone has been extended in the farming sector as it is has been asserted by many researches conducted into or outside some projects framing the searching of market information services through ICT devices  in Africa and  in other countries of the world. Nevertheless, the mobile phone is unequally dispersed among the population of East Africa where it is remarkable that the urban young educated man is equal to the urban young educated woman to be the most possessor of mobile phone than the young instructed man of rural community and himself is more proprietor of handset than the poor old man of the same area and it is obvious that the old woman living in rural area is seldom deserve by all kind of mobile application.

Indeed, the mobile phone application in farming issues is used more and more by well-off farmers of East Africa likewise mobile development for specific enhancement of production in agriculture and livestock with the target of searching information in order to increase income and productivity in its farming activities. In fact, the mobile phone is taking the second place after the radio in the ICT devices used by smallholder farmers in East Africa.

The defy is to avoid to enclose the right information by mutual manipulation between farmers through mobile phone and to exploit the new ICT tool with rationality in searching market information and in acquiring farming techniques for escalating the farmer’s welfare and to extend the mobile phone application among the smallholder farmers disseminated inside the East Africa Community in using mobile phone for rising its productivity.

 The mobile application for market information

The flux of information through mobile phones has facilitated positively the resolution of some problems crossed by farmers in East Africa for acknowledge the price of crops on market; M-farms  in Kenya is the leader in connecting a network of farmers involved in selling online their fresh products and makes possible to purchase by sending oral voice or SMS to the phone number mentioned on the website: http://www.mfarm.co.ke

The transparency and openness of the market information has conducted to the growth of trade of the farming products accordingly to the study done in Rungwe District of Tanzania by Agnes Godfrey Mwakaje (2010), who revealed that 23% of two hundred farmers framed by its survey, answered that their ICT tools are used for searching market information.

Also, Muto and Yamano quoted by Jenny C. Aker and Isaac M. Mbiti (no date) asserted that in Uganda ‘mobile phone coverage is associated with a 10 percent increase in farmers’ probability of market participation for bananas… suggesting that mobile phones are more useful for perishable crops’, however, I believe rather that farmers are in hurry for selling perishable crops because they should  lose in storing so long their perishable products for further price speculation like it is seen for grain products alike beans or maize and consequently the producers of bananas get hastily money not due to its handset but because of their awareness of the price volatility and innate vulnerability of fresh products and moreover the price offered by the traders to the smallholder farmers afraid of coming back at home with the heavy harvest admit the price offered which does not reflect the real cost of productionI have remarked the same case in Cibitoke, area of Burundi where the smallholder farmers are in speed to flow out theirs fresh tomatoes for low price instead of wasting their production which mitigate to be damaged by the hot weather of Cibitoke plain after a long week of waiting the bargaining with the traders coming from Bujumbura capital and the storekeepers purchase often a small quantity due to the lack of a wide cooling system nearby the local market and this case motivated the setting up of a factory for tomatoes transformation in Cibitoke province as well as for the fruit transformation of Vyegwa in Ngozi province where the smallholders are expecting to get the biggest added value.

 The mobile application for farming techniques

The educated farmers of East Africa exploit regularly their mobile application in searching farming techniques and acquire quickly through their handset, some specific information such as the quantity of fertilizers to be mixed for their land productivity; the dose of medicines to administrate to their farm animals and the response to questions are delivered in a real time by remote experts in farming.

 The constraints of the evaluation of mobile phone effects on farming’s productivity

The mobile phone is a mean among many others and is not an end in the production process of farmers and so it is difficult to isolate two initials groups of farmers using the same agricultural techniques at the starting point: the first reference’s group with mobile phone and another without the same ICT devices in order to measure with precision, the difference of productivity between the two groups after a certain period of farming.

In other hand, it is hazy undeniably to evaluate with accuracy the effects of mobile phones on the farmer’s income because its income could be reliable to highness of demand on the market; to the intrusion of new techniques in farming  or the involvement of  the public and private partnership in the building key infrastructures like roads; technical schools; insurance and financial credit for farmers; modern markets for inputs and outputs and so on;  therefore the mobile phone is the new way of living instead of using former drum of traditional communication, a smallholder farmer of East Africa struggles to acquire a handset for talking more frequently with its relatives than its traders and I think that in any case, none could advice smallholder farmers to avoid the incentive ICT devices such as the small mobile phone ringing in the pocket, but only the best is to adjust those devices in farming development.

Many studies have already been done related to the impact of mobile on market efficiency in the agriculture issues but further studies are waited related to the evaluation with acuity, the income drawn by mobile phone application even if it has been proved that the ICT devices have improved the farming efficiency and productivity as well as in the land tenure and in the rational behavior of smallholder farmer using with mind their mobile phone for escalating high income and productivity such as the case studied  by Bjorn Van Campenhout (2012), related to the implicit effects of mobile applications used by Grameen Knowledge Worker in increasing the maize prices at the rate of 22%  in Uganda country.   


The mobile application is a new Skinner’s box acquired by awake and well-organized farmers who know how to exploit it with rationality and who acquire and send relevant information and do not waste time by mutual manipulation among others farmers.

In fact, I agree with Jenny C. Aker and Isaac M. Mbiti (no date) that  the mobile phone application will not be the ‘silver bullet’ for  the farming issues, without a doubt, the mobile phone application needs additional basic investments such as roads and specific supports from the public for the framing the enhancement of smallholder farmers by organizing the content of relevant agricultural information such as the new price of input; the availability near the rural community of  selected  seeds or livestock of high productivity, fertilizer, medicines  and addressing them regularly by mobile application with the support of mobile phone companies consequently the smallholder farmers of East Africa should avoid mutual manipulation through their mobile phones and therefore they could increase their welfare by the rational use of mobile phone which should support as a mean together with other basic infrastructures in bringing safety in rural community instead of suffering of hunger and  poverty and expecting to leave its rural community for the town where the situation should be worst for a new coming from bush area.


Key words:

Agricultural information; Burundi; Evaluaton; East Africa; Farming; ICT devices; Income; Kenya  ; Mark and information; Mobile application; Mobile phone; Monitoring; Mutual manipulation ; Openness; Perishable crops; Productivity; Smallholder farmer; Tanzania ; Transparency; Uganda 

Professor Antoine Kantiza is currently Webmaster of the website of the National Radio Television of Burundi, RTNB in short, http://www.rtnb.bi. Prior, he was administrator of the former website of RTNB through which he spread Burundi genuine news in front of the disinformation relayed by wicked medias.He is Expert in E-learning and in Research Policy Methodology and is a Legal representative of the not for profit organization of remote learning,PLEAD in initials. Also, he leads farmer's activities in order to teach by the example and incite the other small farmers of its rural community to compete for making better in the action of fighting against the famine and the ignorance which are the corollaries of the violence and the misery in developing countries.