Under the title “Market Intelligence: How Mobiles are Helping Farmers and Fishermen” Telecom TV recently covered the work of the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE) , as well as the use of mobile phones for price discovery by fishermen in Kerala, India. Trades of various other goods and services in India were also covered. Both, the work of KACE and the changes in the information behaviour of fishermen in Kerala are phenomona well familiar to people interested in the application of mobile technology to agricultural trade in developing countries. Still, the video material allows us the opportunity to visualise the daily routines and work conditions of Kenyan market traders and of Kerala fishermen.
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Name: TV Ramachandran, Mutahi Kagwe, Godfrey Fwamba
Recorded: 13/03/2009 – Nairobi, Kenya and Kerala, India
The background behind KACE is that it is a commercial enterprise seeking to facilitate the process of price discovery occurring the market exchange of agricultural products. The video footage covers the work of Godrey Fwamba who appears to work as an enumerator and his duties seem to involve daily visits to the Nairobi market. During those visits he collects prices from the local traders, then sends them back to his office via SMS, where they are made available to farmers. The role of enumerators is crucial for the successful implementation of mobile market information services. A dedicated network of extension workers is capable of collecting comprehensive price and avalability information from local markets, thereby enabling ICT solutions to deliver relevant information with potential for changing the behaviour and choices of market suppliers.
The video further shows the work of Pradeep Kumar, skipper of the Sreevaltsom, a trawler fishing in the seas of Kerala, India. Pradeep Kumar is shown using his mobile to check fish prices, thereby ensuring he lands his catch at the most profitable quayside market. The story about the impact of increased mobile network coverage in the coastal waters of Kerala on the market prices for fish in the region is familiar from the work of Robert Jensen. In Issue 3, 2007 of the Quarterly Journal of Economics Robert Jensen published the results from a study carried out between 1997 and 2001 in theh Kerala region. The empirical worked showed that the increased availability of mobile phone communication, encouraged fishermen to make informed decisions about which port to land at and reduced the price dispersion among fish markets in different ports. It is worthwhile to point out that the behavioural changes and the welfare gains in Kerala were not the result of any subsidised mobile market information initiative. By contrast, the changes in Kerala were self-sustaining because they resulted from individual bhavioural adaptations to information availability.