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El Salvador: Smallholder Farmers to Report Prices From Smartphones

Farmers in El Salvador learning how to report farm-gate prices through the WFP smartphone application. Copyright:WFP/Damien Fontaine 

WFP has recently piloted a new price monitoring system in El Salvador. Selected P4P-supported farmers have been provided with smartphones and technical training on how to report updates on their crop sales and current farm-gate prices. This innovative system also allows smallholder farmers to benefit from the data when taking marketing decisions.

WFP/P4P launched the new price monitoring system in order to obtain a better understanding of the different marketing options available to smallholder farmers. In essence, the system will capture the volumes sold and the prices obtained by farmers in different markets, such as local markets, farm-gate selling and marketing through farmers’ organisations. El Salvador is the first of four target countries to pilot the new system. A data collection application for smartphones has been specifically designed for the trial. 

Background

To date, there has been no conclusive evidence clearly indicating that collective marketing through farmers’ organisations is an efficient way to address failures in agricultural markets. As a result, the P4P Mid-Term Evaluation (2011) recommended P4P to “implement a practical system for quickly collecting farm-gate prices”. This innovative tool is a product of that recommendation. The system, developed and designed by WFP, aims to fill a gap in the current market data collection and enhance the understanding of farmers’ marketing choices. 

Trained to report farm-gate prices

A three-day training was held in the capital San Salvador where 18 lead farmers from P4P-supported farmers’ organisations learned how to use the application. The lead farmers will use WFP-distributed smartphones to submit weekly reports to the WFP country office. This will allow for an instantaneous data monitoring and analysis by the WFP and P4P staff. Furthermore, a summary of the weekly update will be shared with the farmers. Alcides Ruiz, one of the participating farmers has already discovered the potential benefits this will bring to him and the Asaescla farmers’ organisation: 

“The compiled price information will be extremely useful for us. At the moment, it’s the middlemen that are running the market in our community, as they dictate the price when they pick up our crops. They pull the prices down. If we as the producers are kept informed about the prices in other areas, and how they evolve, we will be able to negotiate fair prices and increase our incomes.”

Encouraged to use the smartphones

The smartphones include an arrangement with free calls between the 18 farmers and the WFP office. Due to the expected increase in the exchange of information, this will prove an instrumental tool. In addition, the participating farmers and their organisations are encouraged to explore other possible uses of the smartphone. As an incentive, a limited amount of monthly airtime and internet data is included in the arrangement. 

In the coming weeks, the pilot system will be launched in Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania. 

Sonia Patricia Diaz
Participant

“With the smartphone, I will be aware of the prices is in the market and will be able to easily share the information with others. I will also be able to call relatives as well as the other associations to share information on prices and markets. Maybe we could even use this opportunities to sell products between our organisations and regions.”

Rufino Fajardo
Participant

“In my community there may be one price and at the same time there is another price in another community. It is important to be informed about the prices at local and national levels. Is has happen before that our farmers’ association bought products that we could not sell further because it turned out we had paid too high price in the first place.”

Alcides Ruiz
Participant

“I will not only use the phone for me, but also teach others in my organisation how to use it. It also enables the establishment of a network of communication with other producer organisations. Previously we did not know each other and now we are looking forward sharing important information on how to access better markets.”