My name is Cosmas Kombat, and over the past 3 months I have been researching Market Information Systems (MIS), this particular one funded by GiZ/Market Oriented Agricultural Programme (MOAP) in partnership with Esoko to support maize traders in the Techiman market in Ghana. I wanted to share my new-found perspective on the relationship between traders and farmers.
Market Information Systems, over the past years, have been very useful in supporting businesses and value chains. But when we talk about MIS helping individuals, it is always targeted to small scale farmers. This of course makes sense, considering the information asymmetry that we always talk about–traders have more information than farmers, and they take advantage of that fact. But are we missing something? When I started the feasibility study on Techiman Maize Traders Cooperative Society, even I was a bit reluctant and not sure how traders could be supported with price and market information—especially to the detriment of farmers who are already disadvantaged.
During the study, it became clear that these maize traders were not the stereotype of the harm doing characters we always think of. The Maize traders in Techiman, who have been in the maize business for many years, have long standing contacts with maize farmers from around the villages in the middle belt of Ghana and even with some farmers in the north. These traders provide embedded services to the farmers and support their farming and business activities; these services include credit for inputs, advance payments, social support, extension services and marketing of the maize. Traders and farmers in this setting have a trust relationship and traders feel responsible to support farmers since most of their produce is bought from farm gates directly from these farmers.
Based on the relationship and long trust between the maize traders and the farmers in Techiman, we concluded that the right market information would do a lot of good to traders and farmers since there would be trickle down effect of benefits derived by traders to farmers and vice-versa. And I learned that we must be aware of the myriad of relationships that exist in the market; to keep our minds open about reaching out to traders and understanding their relationships with farmers a bit better.