ICT4AG: Mobile Phone, ‘Most Used ICT Tool’ by Intermediaries in Agri Sector in Ghana and Mali — Study

  • Three intermediary categories in agricultural sector have been surveyed in countries including Ghana and Mali, on their use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs): agricultural extension agents, agro-output and agro-input dealers;
  • Mobile phone leads used ICT devices by intermediaries in Ghana and Mali, followed by computer, tablet, television and radio;
  • Poor connectivity, high costs and literacy among challenges that hinder the use of ICTs.

According to the findings of a study carried out in May 2022 in Ghana and in Mali, mobile phone has proven to be the most used tool for Information and Communications in both countries, by intermediaries in agricultural sector.

The study was facilitated and coordinated by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), of which CORAF is a member, in West and Central Africa, including Ghana and Mali.

Intermediaries are people and small businesses that serve as relays between farmers and markets, thus playing a crucial role in the development of the sector.

The study examined the use of ICTs among intermediaries for their business activities, the impact of ICT use on the scope, quality and profitability of service delivery.

“The findings suggested that the main type of ICT devices used for professional activities was mobile phone, even though they owned other ICT devices like radio, TV, computer and tablet,” conclude the authors of the study conducted in Ghana, Omari R, Jumpah E.T, Arthur J. O., Asabo R, Hagan E, Mahama A, Ameyaw R.A. and Frempong G.

While Kergna A. O., Nientao A., Diallo D. F. and Baumuller H. who conducted the same study in Mali, argue that “the most dominant ICT channel among extension agents and agro-input and output dealers in Mali is the mobile phone, especially smartphone.”

“The findings of this study in Ghana and Mali illustrate that ICTs have a significant penetration rate, at the level of intermediaries in the agricultural sector in the sub-region, based on the case of both countries. Which is a good thing because, in the era of digitalization, it is now necessary to put the battery of digital tools available at the service of agriculture to achieve the objective of sustainable development of zero hunger,” observes CORAF Executive Director, Dr. Abdou Tenkouano.

“We must now harness the great potential of ICTs, in particular mobile phones, to stimulate agriculture development, by offering actors tailored services, through this  specific channel.”

In the study, which involved more than three hundred intermediaries in Ghana and more than six hundred in Mali, three categories of actors were considered: agricultural extension agents, agro-output and agro-input dealers.

Respondents further indicated several benefits from the use of ICT tools, specifically the telephone.

The study found that in addition to bringing producers closer to intermediaries, mobile phone offers advantages such as saving time, improving relations and interactions between actors, sharing information in real time, promoting activities and products, and increasing business profitability.

However, there are some challenges that hinder the access and use of ICT tools by agricultural intermediaries.

Among these challenges, the study authors identified the high cost of ICT devices and services, limited access and poor network connectivity, especially in rural areas.

Exposure to online fraud and misinformation or fake news as well as low digital literacy were also noted.

“ICT tools are real springboards that can help actors in the agricultural sector gain the momentum needed to transform agriculture and make it more inclusive. To do so, accompanying measures are needed at the policy level to facilitate and ensure access and optimal use of these tools, especially in rural areas,” says Dr. Emmanuel Njukwe, CORAF Director of Research and Innovation.

The study on the use of ICTs by intermediaries in the agricultural sector in Ghana and Mali was carried out with the financial support of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

In addition to CORAF, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) are founding members of FARA, who coordinated the study.