In a series of 3 articles we highlight ICCO’s efforts to improve the productivity of the onion value chain in Senegal. Part 1 zoomed in on the farmer field schools, part 2 on a crowdfunding finance product, and this last article deals with a tool for the mobile market.
Onions have a prominent place in the Senegalese food consumption and a major impact on the country’s economy. Annually 360,000 tons of onions are produced in Senegal, which is basically enough for the needs of the entire population. However, due to insufficient quality and storage options, part of the onion harvest is lost. Consequently onions have to be imported during a four to five months period (October to February).
The STARS (= Strengthening African Rural Smallholders) program of ICCO, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, strengthens the capacity of 8,000 onion smallholders by developing marketing tools and financial products. More productivity and food security for the farmers will support Senegal to become self-sufficient in onion production in the near future.
MLouma Checks the Market Weekly
The production of high-quality onions under fair financial conditions stands or falls by improving the access of small-scale farmers to the market. For Aboubacar Sidy Sonko it all started with a competition organized by Orange, the French mobile telephony provider, which wanted to make USSD codes available to social entrepreneurs in Africa.
Sonko, son of a small-scale farmer family, wanted to change the fact that producers do not have reliable information about current market prices. As a result, they are in an extremely weak position compared to middlemen from the city: "These buyers go to remote villages, pretending the market is down. In this way they manage to purchase products far below the regular price."
Aboubacar Sidy Sonko developed a USSD application that allows farmers to check market prices of various products on their mobile phone: MLouma. Louma means weekly market, M is for mobile. In 2016 Sonko won the Orange competition.
New Technologies and Market App
Currently around 11,500 Senegalese onion farmers check market prices via Mlouma for a small amount. Sonko is working with ICCO on an extension of the application that fits in with the inclusive STARS approach. This means, for example, that agricultural advice is given through MLouma or that meteorological information can be requested. In addition, information that is also important for other actors in the value chain will be made available. Input suppliers can indicate which products are offered at what price; traders are given the opportunity to check where and when farmers are putting their harvest up for sale.
The next step in the partnership between ICCO and Mlouma is the development of new advisory services to farmers to get also access to information for available financial products developed by the MFI partners.
Text and photos: Marnel Breure
Go to the first article: Peeling of the Onions of Senegal: Farmer Field School
Go to the second article: Peeling of the Onions of Senegal: Crowdfunding