Improved Markets for African Farmers for Poverty Reduction
Abstract This paper highlights a market information and linkage system (MILS) developed and tested by the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange Limited (KACE) that increases the efficiency of agricultural markets to work better for smallholder farmers and other small and medium sized agro-enterprises (SMEs). The MILS involves harnessing modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower farmers with low-cost reliable and timely market information to enhance the bargaining power of the farmer for a better price in the market place, and to link the farmer to markets more efficiently and profitably. The components of the KACE MILS are (www.kacekenya.com): Rural based Market Information Points (MIPs) which are information kiosks located in rural markets, District-level Market Information Centres (MICs), Mobile Phone Short Messaging Service (SMS), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Internet based database system, rural FM radio and the Central Coordinating Hub in Nairobi. KACE has adopted a business approach to the provision of its services: users pay for the services. For instance it charges: placement fees per initial offer or bid (US$ 1.5-15), commissions on concluded deals (0.5%-5%), subscriptions to price information recipients (US$ 65 for 6 months or US$ 125 for 12 months), fees to visiting foreign groups (US$ 2,000-5,000/visit) and revenue sharing agreements with SMS and IVR service providers. When the KACE MILS services are scaled out and widely used by many farmers and SMEs across Kenya, the system will generate sufficient revenue to sustain its services without reliance on development partner funding. To enhance the financial sustainability of the MILS services further, KACE has recently initiated two innovations: franchising MIPs and MICs to local entrepreneurs, and establishing a virtual trading floor to improve the matching of offers and bids through a rural-based FM Radio program. A recent study of the impact of the KACE MILS concluded that the proportion of farmers and traders that say their incomes has increased and their bargaining positions have improved is very high (75% farmers and 60% commodity traders). Furthermore, the study concluded that it was clear that during the years in which the KACE MILS has been operational, market integration improved for two commodities studied (i.e. maize and beans). This study also highlights the challenges faced by the KACE MILS, including poor infrastructure that imposes high transport costs to markets, high costs of mobile phone calls and SMS and small quantities of produce of varying quality offered. Keywords: Information and communication technology, innovations, Kenya,
Agribusiness, Agricultural and Food Policy, Consumer/Household Economics, Environmental Economics and Policy, Farm Management, Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety, Food Security and Poverty, Institutional and Behavioral Economics, International Relations/Trade, Land Economics/Use, Marketing, Productivity Analysis, Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies, Research Methods/ Statistical Methods,
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