May 17, 2011 – NAIROBI, Kenya – The Regional Agricultural Input Market Information and Transparency System (AMITSA) was formally launched today during the Farm Chemicals International (FCI) Trade Summit being held in Nairobi. Hosted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Trade Summit brings together agro-input suppliers and distributors from around the world, combining educational sessions with commercial business meetings.
AMITSA, a joint initiative of IFDC, the East African Community (EAC) and COMESA, is improving access to market and technical information on agricultural inputs (fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products) for public and private stakeholders in eastern and southern Africa. The use of all agro-inputs remains extremely low in this region, and fertilizer use is well below the 50 kilograms per hectare targeted by African Heads of States during the Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja, Nigeria (June 2006).
The lack of accurate, up-to-date information on agro-inputs is one of the major constraints to agricultural productivity and to the development of business linkages and trade in the region. To address this problem, AMITSA was created to provide accessible data through an open and collaborative market information system. The AMITSA network covers eight countries – Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In collaboration with ministries of agriculture, agro-input trade associations, local projects and non-governmental organizations, AMITSA staff members have identified and trained more than 230 agro-dealers in 120 towns in the region to share monthly prices and sales trends from their agro-input shops. Statistics, directories, publications and market news are compiled and shared via an interactive, web-based portal. Monthly price reports are sent by e-mail to over 600 recipients and can be downloaded from the site’s publication center.
The use of cellular telephone technology has skyrocketed across Africa in the past decade, and more than 65 percent of the population has access to mobile coverage – a much larger percentage than those with Internet or computer access. Mobile phone applications were recently integrated into the AMITSA system, which broadened availability to nearly every farmer and agro-dealer in the region by allowing data to be transmitted via text messages. Price information, technical, extension or marketing messages and alerts will be distributed to more than 5,000 agro-dealers and to hundreds of thousands of farmers. AMITSA’s mobile networks are managed by Esoko (www.esoko.com), a web-based tool that gives people and businesses the opportunity to share information quickly and affordably.
AMITSA is a multi-country, web- and mobile-based market information system on agro-inputs for eastern and southern Africa implemented in collaboration with IFDC, Esoko, COMESA and EAC.
IFDC is a public international organization that focuses on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise. IFDC is governed by an international board of directors with representation from developed and developing countries. The nonprofit Center is supported by various bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, private foundations and national governments.
Esoko is a market information exchange that allows anyone to distribute or collect market information over their mobile phones. With up-to-date market information, businesses and individuals can access prices, browse offers to buy or sell, or advertise their own products and services. Results demonstrate that farmers are able to improve revenues by negotiating better prices or selecting more favorable markets for their produce.
COMESA is a regional economic community (REC) with 19 member countries and a population of over 400 million. COMESA agriculture policy is implemented through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), which aims to increase market access through improved rural infrastructure and other trade-related interventions.
EAC is an REC comprised of five member countries – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – and about 120 million people. The EAC Agriculture and Rural Development policy and strategy emphasize the achievement of food security through the promotion of appropriate use of agro-inputs.
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