On 13rd November 2018, during the GEW, Shaqodoon, SPARK, SAMS ( an agricultural tech startup) and Telesom ( leading telecommunication company in Somaliland) jointly launched M-Dalag, the first mobile based market information system for easily connecting farmers to market while still at their farms. The launch was to provide a platform that gives farmers a customized and localized crop advisory, market prices, remote crop selling facility, while also connecting farmers directly with buyers to ensure they get the best prices for their products. The kick off ceremony was attended by government departments such as ministry of agriculture and office of president’s advisor on technology matters, international NGO’s working on agricultural development, UN agencies, donor agencies such as USAID, agricultural cooperatives, farmers, big hotels management, and several other stakeholders interested in agricultural sector and tech innovations.
Mustafa Othman, Shaqodoon’s technology manager, delivered the opening remarks about the new technology and how leveraging technology and innovation can reduce economic problems in our country the importance of linking farmers to market and agricultural input supplier using no internet. He explained using simple cell phone without internet, famers can be easily connected to market by simply dialing a three-digit short code, 315, sell over their produces, receive latest prices information, connect to agricultural companies and experts and government. Faisal Bidhan, founder of SAMS Company and Mr Tahare, a SAMS agriculturalist briefly explained how they offer on-ground intervention to tackle diseases and apply modern farming techniques, which is done by its agricultural team. “SAMS is holding the hand of farmers from the early stages up to the marketing stage, enhancing the productivity and financial security of farmers in Somaliland” says Faisal, SAMS founder. Abdirahman Aar, Telesom Company’s marketing official spoke on the event, stressed how his company always supports such technology innovations and declared that Telesom is going to sponsor the system partially.
Mohamed Daud, head of software engineering department at Abarso Tech universities, on behave of academics and tech communities spoke about how they are bridging technology gaps specially on agricultural sector and other sectors by using technology to improve access and connecting people on better resources. Among other speakers at the launch included the advisor of the president on technology matters, representatives from international NGOs working on agricultural development, donor agencies, UN agencies, farmer’s cooperatives, farmers, business owners, academic institutions
Each year our farmers produce many crops, but find difficulties in finding their way to market. Since there was no centralized system that facilitates farmers to easily find market and buyers for their products, many times the crops get rot at the farms. It is also observed that there are hundreds of middlemen who exploit farmers’ vulnerabilities by offering them fuel and selling produces for very high commissions. The they also make the process complicated and as a result, farmers are discouraged to produce for large scale.
Shaqodoon developed a mobile-based market information system with the support of SPARK to find a solution for farmer’s market engagement challenges. For system’s operational success, Shaqodoon partnered with SAMS, agri-tech startup that run the first web-enabled market information system platform in the country, launched last year, tried to connect farmers with buyers directly, increasing market reach for farmers and reducing transaction costs. Due to limited internet availability and high level illiteracy among rural farmers, the SAMS’s platform was not successful. The new mobile based initiative by Shaqodoon is designed in a way that illiterates can use it and supports any kind of cell phone.
Since SAMS had developed a large database of farmers, the new initiative first targeted those farmers by giving them a training on calling a three digit code short code then sell their produces, receive latest price info, buy agricultural equipment’s and inputs, speak to agricultural experts etc.
The market information system, M-Dalaghas two sections, a voice or mobile based sectionconnected to three digit short code, 315, and web enabled sectionadministered by operators (SAMS, Ministry of agriculture, etc).
The primary aim of the launching occasion was to make M-Dalag familiar among stakeholders and to show them how important it is in easily connecting them to market. The mobile and web enabled platform that provides key produces of agricultural commodities and sellers to find relevant market information, will address the following issues;
- Lack of market information by Somali farmers to get fair price for their produce
- Diversification of farm produce to reduce exaggeration of market.
- Exploitation of middle men/women resulting in farmer losing out and becoming discourage from farming.
- Linking sellers and farmers through innovative way.
The M-dalag launch occasion was attended by close to 126 people from the following sectors
- Ministry of agricultural development
- Office of president’s advisor on technology matter
- Local and International NGOs supporting agricultural development
- Donor agencies
- UN agencies (FAO)
- Independent agriculturalist
- Farming cooperatives
- Big business owners
- Telecommunication companies (Telesom)
- Ahmed Mumin Seed, Minister of agricultural development, the official opening and the role of the ministry on agricultural development.
- Eng Hussein Buuni, Vice minister of planning and international cooperation,the importance of technology on agriculture and other sectors in NDP II (National development plan 2)
- Faisal Bidhan,Founder of SAMS, SAMS achievement on connecting to market
- Mustapha Othman, Shaqodoon’s technology manager, Linking farmers to market without Internet
- Abdirahman Aar, Telesom’s marketing representatives, the role of Telesom in supporting technological innovations
- Ibrahim President’s advisor on technology, government policy on bridging gaps in development
During the launch ceremony, The Telesom company representative, Abdirahman Aar announced that his company will sponsor M-dalag for the coming two years by giving farmers a free access to dialing the short code. The minister of agriculture and officials from the ministry of planning and cooperation have stressed the significance of such a system at this period and could contribute a lot to local economic development for instance by raising farmer’s purchasing power. The ministry officials are also interested to be an active stakeholder for instance receiving data about farmer’s seasonal crop plantation is going to help them for planning issues in agricultural development.
- M-Dalag received sponsorship for two years
- Positive response from the stakeholders specially ministry of agricultural development.
- Many farmers and buyers are willing to register and use the system
- M-Dalag receives an invitation to be presented at Ignite conference,
The Way Forward
M-Dalag developers, Shaqodoon organization receives an invitation to present it at an international conference on innovative mobile solutions for rural communities. Moreover, at the beginning of the next year, Shaqodoon and SAMS are planning to expand the M-Dalag usage by training more farmers and buyers on how to use the system to easily sell and buy agricultural produces respectively.