Esoko Networks Ltd.
| communication platform to reach smallholder farmers|
English, French, Portuguese
Esoko is an information and communication service for agricultural markets in Africa. It is a response to the explosive growth of cellular services across the continent. The company provides advice to farmers (market prices, weather forecasts, and growing tips) to help them increase yields and profits as well as solutions to businesses (marketing products, monitoring activities, and sourcing goods) to help them connect with farmers.
The technology platform itself includes automatic and personalized SMS alerts, buy and sell offers, bulk SMS messaging, SMS polling, Android (operating system) surveys and more. A private initiative based in Accra, Ghana, Esoko was built and is supported by a team of local developers and consulting staff. In addition to the technology, Esoko provides extensive deployment support, strategic planning and field training to clients.
Esoko began as TradeNet in 2004 with the encouragement of the UN's FAO, and in partnership with FoodNet in Uganda. Focused on agricultural marketing it provided current market data via SMS and the web to stakeholders within the agriculture and trade sectors in developing countries.
In 2005 TradeNet signed a three-year agreement with USAID's MISTOWA program to adapt the product and make it available to their target beneficiaries (MISTOWA's mission was to increase regional trade in West Africa by 20%). Esoko was described as 'a simple sort of eBay for agricultural products across a dozen countries in West Africa'.
In April 2009 TradeNet rebranded as Esoko, switching to a new platform with a broader set of tools. The name Esoko originated from the Swahili name Soko which means Market; the 'e' representing 'electronic'. The eSoko name is also used by the eRwanda Project in Rwanda where they have a different version of eSoko, owned by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Today, the platform can be used anywhere and with any mobile network. Esoko has directly managed offices in Ghana and Kenya and through a reseller network have representatives in seven other countries offering local strategy and training to clients.
Results from an independent study by INRA, the French National Institute for National Research (Institut national de la recherche agronomique) found that smallholder farmers in Northern Ghana saw a 10% revenue increase utilizing Esoko SMS market prices. New York University is finalizing a two-year randomized controlled trial to measure impact of SMS price alerts on farmer marketing behavior. Results will be published mid-2014.
Esoko is actively looking for research partners to engage in studies proving the impact of more sophisticated content services for farmers (weather, agricultural tips) and the impact Esoko's business tools have on revenues and efficiencies.