“Smallholder farmers are producing most of the developing world’s food, but at the same time they're often stuck in a spiral of poverty, preventing them from growing their businesses and improving their livelihoods. The decentralized rural markets and farmers’ lack of access to profitable markets is at the core of this complex equation,” said Ahnna Gudmunds, project coordinator and co-founder of the Virtual Farmers Market. Smallholder farmers, who are usually situated in remote areas, find themselves in a position where their only option is to sell their crops at the local market or through a middle man who leaves the farmer with very little or no profit at all.
“In Zambia, real-time and reliable market information about farmers’ supply and traders’ demand is sorely lacking. Rural smallholders are worst affected by this information asymmetry; often invisible to traders who might buy their produce and often obliged to sell at rock-bottom prices to the few buyers that irregularly venture into rural areas,” said Evin Joyce, project manager in Zambia and co-founder of the innovation. Using smart phone technology, Maano makes these farmers visible to more buyers, cuts out unnecessary middlemen and aims to help farmers get better prices for their produce and reduce transaction costs for buyers.
For farmers who aren’t tech savvy, Maano’s simple and straightforward interface is the perfect introduction into the world of smartphone apps. Jay Akkireddy, WFP Innovator and co-founder, explained, “Mobile phones revolutionised communication, and smartphones are redefining the way we do things. Yet they still have a long way to go in help feeding the planet. Maano is a small step towards achieving zero hunger by answering the burning question of the farmer - where is the market?”