Benefits of market information access through mobile telephone among small-scale farmers: a case study of NAFIS application in Kirinyaga County
Muriithi, Elizabeth Wanjiru
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Agriculture is an important sector for economic development in Kenya. Provision of agricultural extension services is a key service that is believed to improve agricultural production among farmers leading to improved incomes and food security in the long run. However, market information asymmetry between small-scale farmers and traders results to reduced farmers' incomes.Farmers in Kirinyaga County face difficulties in marketing their produce due to lack of or poor access to market information. Attempts have seen the introduction of ICT based market information service projects. National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS) is one such initiative by the government through agriculture sector ministries. It provides comprehensive agricultural information including market information through mobile telephones. Application of NAFIS is used in this study as a case study . . Research questions were answered by carrying out a field survey and focus group discussions on the use of mobile telephones to access market information. Key informant interviews were also carried out to collect information on access to market information through mobile telephones. Both quantitative and qualitative methods of data analysis were used in this study. Previous empirical studies have had differing findings in benefits of accessing market information through mobile telephones. Some studies found that there are benefits while others found little or no effect on use of mobile telephones to access market information. To contribute to knowledge in the area, this study examines the effects of market information access through mobile telephones on transaction costs and bargaining power. First the study found that market information access through mobile telephones did not necessarily depend on gender, age, education, farm size, income levels or membership in farmer's organisations rather on mode of production. Small-scale farmers producing market oriented crops use mobile telephones to access market information as compared to farmers producing for subsistence. The study argues that market information access through mobile telephones reduces transaction costs and improves bargaining power between small-scale farmers and traders. From the study, reduced transaction costs are largely felt on reduced actual travel costs to search for markets. Additionally, bargaining power is improved through reduced role of middle-persons in provision of market information and improved prices. On challenges, the study found that the major challenge is lack of markets in spite of access to commodity price information. The study concludes that access to market information through mobile telephones reduces transaction costs and improves bargaining power among small-scale farmers. Therefore, there is need to sustain and expand the benefits by addressing the challenges.