Ethiopia has diversified agro-ecology with altitudes ranging from 200 meters below sea level to 4,260 meters above sea level, various soil types and different seasons. This has enabled Ethiopian farmers to produce and supply different types of fresh vegetables throughout the year. Vegetables produced in the north are marketed in the south, west or east and vice versa.
Unlike in developed countries, the majority of vegetables in Ethiopia are transported and stored at room temperature. These poor transportation and storage methods result in high post-harvest losses and subsequently trigger daily market price oscillation. As a result, vegetable traders in Ethiopia, both at high and low level, take time and great care in monitoring vegetable varieties and prices across the country daily, often using their mobile phones, so that they only buy the small quantities they need for short periods.
Some traders buy their vegetables and collect them from as far as 700 kms away from their home towns. In previous years, vegetable traders incurred high operational costs in transportation and travelling time. Nowadays, however, they are able to solve this problem by using their mobile phones. Traders in Bahir Dar, for example, now use their mobile phones to order for supplies from Adama, Shashemene or Asela, towns which are an average of 800 kms from Bahir Dar. They deposit payments directly in the wholesalers’ bank account and receive their goods without having left their home towns. Traders also explained that, in most cases, they have never even seen their suppliers or bulk customers in person.
This situation illustrates that mobile phones are easing vegetable marketing problems in Ethiopia and they have great potential in providing market information services to vegetable producers and traders. The use of mobile phones to access market and other value chain information is an area that the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) Project should build on.
Written by Yigzaw Dessalegne (PhD) with contribution from the LIVES Amhara team.