Cameroon: Farming in the Dark

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Knowledge is power, and lack of knowledge about markets and prices is a key factor in keeping poor farmers around the world ?dirt poor.? African producers of cocoa and coffee, for example, earn as little as one twelfth of the international market rate for their crops. In the dark over the prices being realized in local as well as world markets, they remain at the mercy of middlemen, traders and corporations. What is true in Africa, is equally true in Asia or Latin America.
Increasing farmers? access to knowledge of markets and prices has long been a central plank in efforts to break out of the poverty cycle. It is a strategy now given a massive boost by the opportunities new information technology can provide in helping to bring knowledge to even the remotest farming community. One example of this new potential is a technical assistance project called INFOSHARE, which is giving commodity producers access to the information they need to negotiate better prices and get their produce into higher-paying markets. Cameroon, with about 900,000 cocoa and coffee smallholders, is testing the system and early interest indicates it will expand into other countries and crop sectors as soon as 2006. Villagers without access to the internet will be able to get this information twice daily from national radio broadcasts and use it to set prices that are both fair and realistic. It is estimated that greater market transparency in Cameroon will enable small-scale farmers to increase their returns by 10 to 15 per cent. INFOSHARE is run by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which has designed this information-sharing database system and has trained government staff in its use. It is part of INFOCOMM, an UNCTAD internet portal that provides, free-of-charge, pricing, product and market information on some 20 commodity sectors. INFOCOMM is currently being used by 12 to 15 million people worldwide, 60 per cent of them in developing countries.
Story found here.

Source: UN News Centre