Mobile phone use by small-scale farmers: a potential to transform production and marketing in Zimbabwe
Smallholder farmers are major contributors of horticultural produce. Women’s contribution is noteworthy. Meeting market demand on time and avoiding market ‘floods’ is a challenge among communal farmers, leading to post harvest losses partly due to lack of information and uninformed decision making. Mobile phones have potential to connect farmers to markets, close the information gap and enable informed decisions. Currently most farmers target a few markets leading to market ‘floods’, low prices and fresh produce deterioration while some potential markets remain untapped. A survey conducted in 2015 covering 131 farmers in Svosve-Wenimbi, Marondera district of Mashonaland East province in Zimbabwe evaluated mobile phone ownership and use in farming; and its potential in transforming production and marketing. High literacy and mobile phone ownership of 95.32% and 94.45% respectively was reported, with 16% already accessing advisory services over mobile phone. 51.1% utilised various mobile phone services including accessing market information on inputs and produce, advisory services, weather data, mobile phone money transfers for transaction and crop insurance. By using mobile phones farmers made informed decisions and saved time and transport cost. Mobile phone ICT can promote better production, marketing, food security and livelihoods and more farmers may adopt the technology.
Keywords: small holder agriculture, marketing, mobile phones, women, Zimbabwe, extension implications