A New Platform for Agricultural Intelligence

October 30, 2013

EMkambo is one of those rare, relatively small projects whose success has benefitted a whole nation. Started in 2012, with support from Hivos, the project seeks to do one seemingly simple thing; to keep track of Zimbabwe’s agricultural commodities data.

The problem, project founder, Charles Dhewa soon found, was that there was fragmentation in the information gathering approach for agriculture. Government was doing its own thing, as were a number of NGOs, farmer organisations and local authorities. There was no single place where one could get a holistic picture of what was happening in the country’s agricultural sector.

He approached Hivos with a proposal to create a central information registry where all this information would be collected, entered into a database and disseminated to stakeholders.

About a year after it started, eMkambo has made its mark. For the first time, accurate figures of the value of trade at the country’s biggest agricultural market, Mbare Musika, in Harare, are available.

On a daily basis, eMkambo sends its team out into the market and they record every delivery; noting down what the commodity is, which part of the country it’s from and what the value is, based on that day’s prices.

Mbare is a huge market, consisting of a farmers market, a wholesale market and a retail section. At least 5,000 farmers make deliveries to the farmers section every month. Their produce then moves on to the wholesale section which has between 1500-2000 traders.

It is estimated that 70% of agricultural produce from Zimbabwe’s main agricultural regions goes through the market, making it the backbone of the country’s agricultural value chains.

The data collected by eMkambo is enabling banks to start giving loans to traders and some new farmers. It is also enabling the Ministry of Agriculture to assess how new farmers, beneficiaries of its land redistribution programme, are doing. Most of all, it has started enabling farmers to plan ahead, understand their industry and know what crops to plant at what times of the year, positively affecting food supply countrywide.

SMS alerts, sent out to farmers on a regular basis, keep them updated about market conditions, prices, commodities in oversupply or short supply and farming conditions across the country. A call centre enables various stakeholders to ring in and get the information they want.

The next move is to set up data collection offices at other markets around Zimbabwe.