By Djaounsede Pardon Madjiangar
Getting accurate and reliable market information has always been challenging for farmers living in Afghanistan’s remote rural areas. But a community-based radio is now playing a role in filling the information gap, reducing transaction costs and increasing farmers’ incomes.
Ghulam Ghaws, 52, is a farmer from Afghanistan’s northern province of Faryab. A father of seven, Ghulam cultivates wheat, barley, chickpeas and water melon for a living. In 2012, when the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) introduced its Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme to help smallholder farmers, he joined the scheme. This has helped him to produce more wheat, which he sells through farmer cooperatives and in local and regional bazaars.
However, acquiring accurate market prices to determine the optimal time to sell is challenging, as access to information is limited in the province. In the absence of mobile network coverage, farmers have to travel to the next village or province to get market information. This is risky and costly due to insecurity. As a result, they rely on middlemen for market information.
Key information at your fingertips
Now this gap has been filled through a community-based radio station, Radio Sehat, established two years ago by WFP’s cooperating partner ACTED. Radio Sehat informs farmers on issues like nutrition, hygiene and market information. Twice a week, it broadcasts market information including crop prices in the local and regional markets.
“Today, I can see what the real market price is and based on this, I can decide to sell my crop for a good price at the right time”, Ghulam said. “This is encouraging, and I think I will continue to work hard in my fields.”
Radio Sehat has also augmented farmers’ capacity to deal with the middlemen. Because they have better access to information than any other actor in the market, middlemen tend to distort market prices. They communicate and impose lower prices on farmers, and the net difference from the real market price goes into their pockets. Likewise, when farmers negotiate loans through middlemen, they tend to pay higher interest rates, putting additional pressure on the already vulnerable farmers.
Boosting crops and incomes
“It looked like we were only serving the middlemen’s interests; we had to work very hard in the field, but at the end of the day most of our profit went to them,” Ghulam said. “Now, this is over. With Radio Sehat, we know the market price and we can discuss with them as partners.”
As a result of the market information sharing on Radio Sehat, many farmers said their crop sales have increased, and with it their incomes. Ghulam’s family now has at least two meals a day, and next year, he said, he will build two new houses and extend his farming land to produce more crops.