Market Intelligence for Ghanaian Farmers

July 09, 2012 by Andrea Spillmann

While some farmers throughout Ghana (and other developing countries) have achieved significant financial success, many still struggle to make ends meet. A large part of the problem is that they find themselves at the mercy of their buyers, unable to get the best or even fair prices for their produce. Where commodities traders in the developed world can pay lage sums to Bloomberg for a data feed, Ghanaian farmers have no such option to know what they should charge, and where to get that price. Esoko, a private start-up based in Accra, is hoping to change that, providing Ghanaian farmers with price information via text messages. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the service, a team of economists from New York University’s Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED) is conducting a randomized control trial (RCT) involving 1000 farmers in the Northern Volta region of Ghana.  For the past six months, Captricity has been happy to digitize their baseline and monthly follow-up surveys, and will soon also complete the year-end one.

Why Captricity?
The CTED team chose to use paper surveys for a few reasons.  Primarily, with short time and limited oversight to set up the surveys, paper proved easier to coordinate and run. They knew what to expect, and could entrust thousands of paper surveys to about a dozen enumerators without worrying that anything would get in the way of them doing their work.  The CTED team was able to return to New York while the enumerators moved forward collecting the data.

Compared to manual data entry
Initially, CTED set out to use students to enter the data manually, but ran into issues of time, cost, and accuracy.

  • Manual entry took longer: It took roughly one month for 10 of the students working part-time to enter about 650 of the forms. The students entered a form every 20 min. In contrast, Captricity completed the entire 1000 form baseline in less than 4 days.
  • Manual entry was more expensive: NYU student labor did not come cheap. Entering just 650 forms by hand cost significantly more than using Captricity for a full 1,000.
  • Manual entry had accuracy issues Captricity did not:  One of the largest errors encountered with hand entry was that, given the enormity of the spreadsheet, the correct information would get entered on the wrong line. Whole rows were off-synch, but it was often unclear where the data really belonged, a problem which can be very difficult to fix without going back through all the data. Additionally, while no entry system is perfect, the errors on Captricity have often been easier to spot than those made by the students, making them faster and easier to fix.

So, what are the results of this exciting research? While final outcomes are still pending one last, large survey, the CTED team did mention one surprising fact. In the regions of Ghana where they are running the program and evaluation, nearly 70% of people have a cell phone...but less than one third know how to use SMS. For more juicy tidbits and facts, stay tuned for their final results and analysis.


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