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Southern Africa Trust |

Smallholder Farmers Access to Market Information Systems

Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources

Market information systems can play a significant role in addressing these challenges and play a key role in economic development and growth as it can bridge the critical knowledge gap between stakeholders. Given the rise of information and communication technologies (ICTs), MIS has become more accessible by these marginalised communities (smallholder farmers and traders). The application of ICT in agriculture is based around two issues market services and knowledge creation. ICTs represent a medium through which marketing exchange can take place, by providing marketing through the dissemination of market information such as prices, location of produce, and bidding for stock ICT allows for processing of knowledge as well as provide platform for information dissemination especially through the provision of extension services. ICT revolution encompasses new ways of capturing, processing, storing and displaying information and is capable of increasing productivity and competiveness of smallholder farmers. The advent of market information system (MIS) has been instrumental assisting farmers in accessing data on agricultural market. The emergence of cell phone and internet access has eased the availability of information by farmers. Data transmitted includes prices of products, contact details of buyers and sellers, advice on production, transaction opportunities and policy regulations. It is expected that MIS will be able to provide more services to farmers including opportunities for credit access, storage infrastructure, currency exchanges etc.

ICT platforms in agriculture can be described in four categories, Voice Information Delivery Services, Radio: Dial-up (Agricultural Information on Demand) and Regular Radio Broadcasts, Extension Services Based on Mobile Phone and Database Monitoring and e-Learning for Basic Skills, Agricultural Education and Video-Based Approaches The proliferation of ICT-based MIS is especially greatest in Africa where rapid penetration of cell phones has created interest in the opportunities that exist in applying ICTs in agriculture. Southern Africa is lagging behind West and East Africa with respect to penetration of ICT technologies among smallholder farmers. Despite this the use of ICT based market information system is on the rise technologies. These systems are being applied to solve a range of challenges faced by smallholder farmers in the region especially improving smallholder farmers’ access to markets and agricultural credit and empowering farmers to negotiate better prices. The discussion in this paper illustrates the use of ICT based Market information systems in improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers through reducing transaction costs incurred in market exchange, however much more impact can be achieved if the following recommendations are considered.

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