Traditionally and categorically, cocoa farming has been perceived the reserve of certain calibre and age group of people. It is not surprising sometimes to find low productivity in the stock market with regards to Cocoa which is ironically Ghana’s most important commodity economically.
There has been efforts to make agriculture and Cocoa farming for that matter a venture appealing to young people but to no avail, with more than 1.2 million unemployed people ranging from age 15 as reported by the Labour Force Survey from 2015. However, predominantly about 90 percent of these numbers use smartphones making the situation not all that hopeless; if only Cocoa farming can be mobile phone friendly. Why not?
Farmerline To the Rescue?
Farmerline is one of the Technologically based Agriculture companies that has worked effortlessly in the 21st century to bridge the gap of interest, access to information and the technical know-how in farming. A proudly Ghanaian social enterprise that leverages technology and data to transform smallholder farmers into successful entrepreneurs. The company’s mission is to connect farmers to vital services to increase their yields and income through technology.
Having a result oriented goal, Farmerline has reached over 200,000 farmers in 11 African countries including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Bénin, Tunisia, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire for 5 years and counting. Farmerline’s impact has been recognised worldwide, thanks to her partners.
Meanwhile, it appears the company’s major functionality was not exclusively dedicated to Ghana’s premier and major commodity (Cocoa) economically. The quest to complement the company’s mission in this regard gave birth Cocoalink – an app that seeks to solve the problem of an aging population in the cocoa growing sector and a lack of interest by young people in the sector. The app creates the avenue for young people to learn about cocoa farming and disprove the perception that there is no profit in farming.
The Cocoalink App
The app also serves as a ready reference guide for Cocoa Extension Agents in their daily interactions with young farmers. Farmers who receive extension support can use the app to obtain valid, real time and on-point extension information to solve daily farm challenges.
CocoaLink was initially developed by the Hershey Company, World Cocoa Foundation, and Ghana Cocoa Board to provide improved access to farming advice via SMS and voice messages for all cocoa farmers as a way to strengthen cocoa extension services.
The CocoaLink Journey
Last year, Farmerline was invited by the Hershey Company to further build on the concept of CocoaLink as part of their Cocoa for Good strategy, and specifically develop the CocoaLink Android-application. CocoaLink, built on Farmerline’s proprietary smartphone application framework, now focuses on using technology as a means of increasing youth interest in agriculture who currently see no future in cocoa farming as a business.
The application features weather information, free interactive courses and quizzes on climate smart agriculture and income diversification. It also features access to finance, discounts on agro-inputs, and social media linkages.
It’s content is in the form of text as well as audio and visuals, the Android-based smartphone application is ideal for anyone who wants to learn about cultivating a profitable cocoa farm. Through the app, the learners are able to be review the content they learn through quizzes. Through Facebook Messenger, users with non-android devices can also read CocoaLink articles and take quizzes by interacting with the Farm AssistantBOT.
One will agree that competition is a necessary evil any organisation will have to deal with and Farmerline is no exception. However the company’s new product(Cocoalink) according to it’s corporate Service Associate Mami Araba Kwenua Amuah, is uniquely geared towards solving the problem of an aging population in the cocoa growing sector and a lack of interest by young people in the sector. She said CocoaLink will motivate young people to learn about cocoa farming and disprove the perception that there is no profit in farming while creating young farmer entrepreneurs who will empower their communities. This vision fits perfectly into this mission of the company as it provides vital information to young farmers through their smartphones to affect change and transform their lives.
She admitted the innovations and competition occurring in the AgriTech sector currently, “We support these innovations whole-heartedly and we are excited to collaborate with other Agritech companies to improve outcomes for smallholder farmers and transform their livelihoods”.
The Way Forward
Farmerline is one of the only technology innovators creating comprehensive market-oriented solutions for both sides of the supply chain whose services both on-the-ground with farmers in Ghana and at a higher level with stakeholders in the food and agriculture industry positions the company well to create a better world for smallholder farmers across Africa. Focusing on empowering both private and public sector partners with sustainable technology services, the company ensures that farmers will continue to benefit from long-term impact even after projects end.
In the long-term, Farmerline envisages CocoaLink as an industry-wide tool to empower cocoa sustainability initiatives to reach young farmers, women, and extension officers with engaging and innovative knowledge resources.
Farmerline has good standing on the international front having been featured by reputable media houses such as the New York Times, Voice of America among others and have won various awards for connecting farmers to vital services. Prestigious among these awards are:
● Forbes 30 under 30 Africa (Won by Farmerline CEO Alloysius Attah)
● Fast Company Most Innovative Companies in Africa (Farmerline)
● King Baudouin Africa Development Prize (Farmerline/CEO Alloysius Attah)
● Echoing Green Fellowships (Co-Founders)
● Young Business Leader of the Year Award – CNBC Africa (Won by Farmerline CEO Alloysius Attah)
● Financial Times/ IFC Transformational Business Award (Farmerline)
Farmerline has a headquarters and Farmer Services office in Kumasi, Ghana, while the Corporate Services office is based in Accra, Ghana. The company is positive about opening offices in Europe and Ivory Coast in the coming year. Thanks to Farmerline, the future of Cocoa is Cocoalink.
Download the Cocoalink App from the Play Store using this link: CocoaLink