Building a High-Tech Trading Platform for Smallholder Farmers in Uganda
Researcher: Craig McIntosh (UC San Diego), Lauren Falcao (UC Berkeley), Paul Gertler (UC Berkeley), Richard Ssekibuule (Makerere University)
In the face of growing food demand from a rapidly growing population, African agricultural markets remain highly divided with lop-sided flow of information on prices, numerous intermediaries in the supply chain, and prices that greatly fluctuate over time and across the region. This project aims to combine the market linkage services of a well-established and highly reputable private sector brokerage firm with high-frequency data collection, an innovative digital trading platform, and a set of contractual guarantees to provide a multi-pronged set of solutions to these problems. Using highly scalable technologies, researchers aim to develop a suite of tools and methods that both measure the shallowness in African food markets and offer solutions for market deepening.
This three-pronged study works to simultaneously alter the intermediaries, the information, and the contracting options available in food markets. Agrinet, the major private-sector supply chain company in Uganda, will roll out a randomized expansion of their services across the country. Innovations for Poverty Action will implement a high-frequency market price survey using innovative short message service (SMS)-based tools developed specifically for the project, and feed these prices back to traders and farmers via SMS. Lastly, the research team will collaborate with computer scientists at Makerere University to roll out Kudu, a locally developed digital food-trading platform to allow farmer groups in the study to contract directly with major buyers.
With this multifaceted approach, researchers hope to protect the food security of consumers who face expensive or unavailable grain supplies during the lean season, as well as promote more integrated markets, with smoother food supply across seasons and improved livelihoods for smallholder farmers.