Esoko being deployed in multiple countries across Africa presents unique and interesting challenges – all specific to each country’s agricultural, cultural, mobile and economic environments. In light of this, Esoko hosts as annual conference that brings together international partners to share ideas and learn from each other in person.
This year’s conference – the 4th of its kind – was held from April 23rd to 25th and included partners from Mozambique, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.
Day 1 Highlight: Emerging themes in MIS
Esoko CEO Mark Davies reminded partners of the need to keep up to speed with current trends to improve the market information system/service industry. From Esoko’s point of view, there are three main themes springing up to drive the industry – global agriculture, mobile agriculture and market information. Under these, they key issues raised included:
- Global agriculture: food security, insurance products, contract farming, climate adaptation, women & youth, and private public partnerships (PPPs)
- Mobile agriculture: call centers and e-extension
- Market information: value chain management and profiling & field force
“The MIS landscape is still in its early days”, Davies said. “There are diverse models and technologies and this presents a massive opportunity for all of us.”
Stories from the field
Esoko partners shared interesting stories on how Esoko is helping them transform their business, and link farmers to markets. The Market Oriented Agricultural Program (MOAP), who has used Esoko to supply market prices to citrus farmers in the Central region of Ghana, indicated that knowledge in market prices led to better bargaining power resulting in higher revenues.
NOVUS (Uganda/Kenya) representative, Mr Bayella Thiam, said their objective for using Esoko is to keep customers engaged and build a trust relationship with price and technical advice. “We use Esoko as a cost effective way of reaching farmers and other actors in the livestock value chain”.
Day 2 Highlight: Product and Tech Showcase
The ‘Orange Day’ of the conference brought over 30 software developers donning the bright orange Esoko T-shirt to spice up their presentations to the partners. To help partners understand and give feedback on the applications they use, Esoko decided to let the developers themselves interact with the partners who took them through the structure and the entire software development process. Some new applications were demonstrated to the the partners in small groups.
But the technical team didn’t do all the talking….partners were grouped together and asked to lead the design process for some applications. It was an interesting experiment in appreciating what goes into the development process, as well as a new way to get partner input and feedback.
Day 3 Highlight: Strategy discussions
How best do you deploy Esoko solutions in your environment? How do you finance, monetise and sustain your project? These are just few of the strategic questions that partners were seeking answers to. The day saw discussions on four key areas – execution, financing, revenues and positioning with partners – one key question was how to get farmers, who have been receiving subventions all these years, to now pay for services. It was interesting to find new partners asking deployment questions and having their fellow partners, who have been on the ground longer, provide valuable insights.
CEO Mark Davies chipped in with a presentation on the actual strategy of the company, where it is headed and what our immediate objectives are. He recounted how unsustainable and cost-ineffective it is for individual projects to develop and maintain their own systems, hence Esoko’s belief in integrating these smaller bits of MIS and data services to create greater value for partners, while enabling these partners to concentrate on their core operations. He added that the company’s goal is to change the way markets work, especially for the poor.
To provide partners with some more specific operational challenges, hands-on-workshops were organised across the three days. Dealing with mobile networks operators, project planning, M&E, field training, enumeration and marketing were some of the key areas addressed.
Esoko is thankful to all its partners and attendees who made it, and we hope that it has been as insightful for them as it was for us. We hope to see everyone again next year, and to welcome some new faces too.