Smallholder farmers in Ghana, while often poor and illiterate, face two main problems: lack of access to structured markets, which leaves them at the mercy of predatory brokers or middlemen who buy at exploitative prices, and lack of access to finance, which means they may never move beyond smallholder farming to middle-level or even commercial farming.
In 2016, AgroCenta set out to address these challenges. In a country where agriculture is the primary economic occupation of many — employing 52 per cent of Ghana’s labour force — the AgriTech start-up launched AgroTrade, an online platform that connects smallholder farmers in the staple food value chain to a wider online market. The start-up provides access to truck delivery services and real-time market information via SMS and IVR. Building on this platform, AgroCenta now enables farmers to receive mobile money, build their credit score and access financial services (like crop insurance) through its latest mobile product, AgroPay.
In Ghana, AgroCenta has set up a mobile money API integration partnership with MTN and Vodafone to pay smallholder farmers directly and seamlessly via mobile money through its AgroPay platform. Both mobile operators will also be supporting AgroCenta farmers with financial literacy training on-the-ground. AgroCenta has also strengthened its partnership with Vodafone Ghana to allow smallholder farmers on its platform to access free voice calls between farmers and discounted mobile devices and bundles. Through this partnership, Vodafone Ghana can liaise with the AgroCenta team to onboard AgroCenta farmers on its Small Office/Home Office (SoHo) packages. Vodafone Ghana now pays AgroCenta monthly commissions based on farmers’ usage of the SoHo services, and provides all the necessary support and training to farmers.
As of July 2019, AgroCenta had registered 46,100 smallholder farmers on the AgroTrade platform across four regions and 640 communities. Since launching AgroPay in January 2019, 2,750 smallholder farmers in two regions of Ghana are now active on the platform.
The Ecosystem Accelerator programme is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Government, the GSMA and its members.