Improved Market Information Services programs increase farmers’ income and knowledge, part one

Marketing and market information

Notes to broadcasters

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Farmers work hard to produce a good crop. After all their work, buyers sometimes come to their farms, or meet them at the market, and pay farmers far less than they need to survive.

What can farmers do about this situation? How can they find out which crops will give them the best price? There are a few responses to that question. One is: listen to Marketing Information Services (MIS) programs on a local radio station. MIS programs tell farmers the current prices in the markets, so that they can start the bargaining process equipped with up-to-date knowledge on prices and market conditions. Thus equipped, farmers may decide to take their produce to the local market. Or they may go to a nearby market that offers better prices. But these options are only possible if the local radio station offers an MIS program. Unfortunately, that’s a big “if.”

From 2007 to 2010, Farm Radio International conducted a project called the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI for short. The project was strongly participatory, in part because it asked farmers to identify those issues which were most important to them. Many farming practices became the focus of a Participatory Radio Campaign, or PRC. As well as farming topics, farmers indicated that they were very interested in Marketing Information Services (MIS). In response, AFRRI worked with five radio stations in four countries to broadcast enhanced MIS. This script reports on those programs.

This script talks about the creative and effective MIS programs that were broadcast as part of AFRRI. These programs go far beyond simply reading out market prices on the air. They educate farmers on how to plan for the coming year; they alert farmers to price trends for different crops, and they tell farmers which commodities are “hot” and which are not. On some programs, farmers can phone in and talk on-air to broadcasters, and ask questions of extension workers. On other programs, broadcasters help connect buyers and sellers.

This is the first part of a two-part series on MIS. This script talks about MIS programs in Mali and Ghana. Part two talks about programs in Uganda and Tanzania and makes some observations about the best ways to broadcast MIS programs.


Host 1:
Hello, listeners. Today is the first part of a two-part program on Market Information Services broadcast on the radio. Market Information Services, or MIS, gather, distribute and sometimes analyze information on market prices and other market information. This kind of information is very valuable to crop farmers and livestock keepers, and also to traders, processors and everyone else involved in handling farm products. With new technologies such as mobile phones now widely available, MIS programs can even more effectively help farmers to increase their income and improve their food security.

Host 2:
That’s right. (Pause) Farm Radio International is a Canadian NGO that works with African rural broadcasters. Between 2007 and 2010, the organization conducted a project called the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI for short. Early research for the project found that farmers wanted to know about farming practices that would increase their food security. But they were also thirsty for knowledge on how to market their farm products more effectively. So AFRRI helped radio stations to operate MIS radio campaigns in four AFRRI countries. In these four countries, five radio stations broadcast MIS programs targeted at small-scale farmers.

This program reports on MIS campaigns broadcast by stations in Mali, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. In part one of the program, we’ll talk about campaigns in Mali and Ghana. In part two, we’ll talk about Uganda and Tanzania.

Host 1:
Let’s start with Mali. Research in Mali showed that farmers were interested in learning how to earn a better income from selling their livestock in markets. This income would help them expand their production of livestock and grains.

Host 2:
Radio Fanaka broadcasts from the town of Fana in southern Mali. The station broadcast an MIS program entitledAw Ni Sugu, which means “Thank you for being at the market.” The program was aired from March to June 2010, and was produced and hosted by broadcaster Fatogoma Sanogo.

Host 1:
Mr. Sanogo visited nearby markets on Wednesdays and Sundays. He interviewed traders and farmers about the prices of the products they were selling, and the benefits and challenges of marketing. He recorded these interviews for broadcast, using market sounds as background to convey the energy and atmosphere of the market. Besides these live interviews, the program used a variety of radio formats to engage farmers, including call-outs, call-ins, and in-studio interviews.

Prices were given for a wide variety of crops and animals, but the program concentrated on cereals, poultry and other small livestock. After the broadcast, the host took phone calls and SMS messages from listeners with specific questions, such as prices or the specific market stalls he visited.

Host 2:
Before the MIS campaign, there was very little discussion of markets and prices on the radio in Mali. Now, says Mr. Sanogo, farmers discuss prices and market challenges with other farmers on-air.

The host recalls a highlight of the program: he travelled to the nearby village of Dien to interview Tarafa Fomba, a local farmer and vaccinator of chickens. Fomba explained that he helps farmers get more money for their chickens by vaccinating them. He told the audience that farmers can increase the market price of their chickens by having them vaccinated. After his service was advertised on the program, Tarafa Fomba became very busy and, as a result, expanded his business.

Host 1:
Here’s another success story. Mariam Traore is one of 60 local women who grow salad vegetables. Before the MIS campaign, she had found it difficult to earn a decent income. Although her husband and children enjoyed the fruits of her labour, she wanted to earn more by selling her good quality vegetables at the market. But the costs of travelling to the market were high, as were the taxes on selling goods at the market.

Radio Fanaka’s MIS program interviewed Madame Traore on her farm. The host described her produce over the radio. He even sampled her produce on-air, describing the taste, quality and texture. Farmers called into the show, asking where they could buy the produce, and wanting Madame Traore’s contact information. People began travelling to her farm to buy salad vegetables.

Mariam Traore now earns up to 1500 CFA (US$3.20) per week, double her previous income of 500-750 CFA ($1.05-$1.60). She is well-known around Wolodo for the very good quality of her salad vegetables. She now earns enough at her farm gate to travel to the market to sell her produce. She and the other women farmers in her village split the costs of travel and taxes, and travel to the market together. The story of Mariam Traore and her women’s group shows how an MIS program can increase income by using creative ways to connect sellers to buyers.

Host 2:
AFRRI and Radio Fana evaluated the MIS program after the completion of the campaign. A survey showed that 68% of the people in communities that could hear the programs and received additional extension advice had listened to the programs. In those communities which could listen to the program but did not receive extension advice, 41% of farmers had listened to the MIS program. So the MIS program was quite well-known in Radio Fanaka’s listening area. It was estimated that the program had 114,000 listeners. Of those that listened, 95% of community members found the information on the MIS program “always useful.” It also appeared that the radio was broadcasting information that farmers wanted to hear. More than four of five survey respondents said that they were most interested in hearing local market prices on the area. A very similar percentage said that they actually heard local prices on the program.

Fatogoma Sanogo continues to produce and broadcast an MIS program on Radio Fana. However, with the end of AFRRI, his capacity to travel to markets outside of Fana has diminished.

Host 1:
Let’s take a short break. When we return, we’ll move on to talk about MIS in Ghana.

Short musical break

Host 1:
Welcome back. Before the MIS campaign started in Ghana, farmers were struggling with the cost of transporting their goods to market, and with the dominant role of “market queens” and other intermediaries in the marketplace. The new MIS campaign addressed these issues directly.

Host 2:
Two stations broadcast MIS campaigns in Ghana: Radio Ada and Volta Star. At Radio Ada, radio staff collected prices and described market conditions at four different markets. Volta Star had two separate programs, one in the Akan language and another in Ewe. The host of the Akan program interviewed traders and farmers at the main market, and used volunteers to collect prices from four other markets. The host of the Ewe version collected information from markets in five communities and interviewed farmers on their marketing challenges.

Host 1:
Radio Ada’s program targeted crops and livestock, plus fish and farming inputs. The program broadcast the prices of major local crops. Some segments focused on the conflict between farmers and middle-women or middle-men. Volta Star’s program looked at how to eliminate specific market challenges. These included a measuring system seen as unfair by farmers and a disorganized market arrangement that made it difficult for farmers to sell their produce.

Host 2:
Radio Ada’s program provided 30 minutes for phone-ins, and received up to 12 calls per program. There were occasional call-outs, and the host also received mobile calls from farmers off-air, asking questions and seeking clarification. Volta Star’s program recorded the voices of farmers on their farms and in the market, and aired their concerns. The host sent text messages to more than 50 farmers, alerting them to the start of the program. These farmers then relayed the alert to other farmers in their communities.

Host 2:
Staff at Radio Ada believe that the AFRRI MIS program improved on earlier MIS programs because it involved farmers and traders. Priceswerementioned in earlier programs, but they were considered not very helpful to farmers. Currently, Radio Ada’s MIS program is off the air, and farmers are pressing for its return.

Volta Star staff also think that involving farmers and letting them choose the topics to be discussed made the biggest improvement to their MIS program. One host says that the MIS program improved farmers’ access to the market by building consensus between farmers and their buyers, and eliminating suspicion and mistrust, while improving the flow of market information. Volta Star’s programs are also off-air now, and farmers have been asking for their return.

Host 1:
Ok, let’s listen to some Ghanaian farmers. Emelia Awakese grows vegetables and raises poultry in a community within Radio Ada’s broadcast area. She sells her produce to middle-women at several markets. Her biggest challenge is low prices caused by a glut of produce at the market. Sometimes the situation is so bad that she brings her produce home and goes to another market the next day. She says the MIS program has been of great help.

Emelia Awakese:
I listen to the market information and go to low price areas to purchase farm produce, and then go to high price areas to sell the produce. The earnings from the sale of my own farm produce doubled because of the program. In just one season, I was able to earn 3000 Ghana cedis (Editor’s note: approximately US$1880), of which I used part to pay school fees for my daughter and two sons. I also used 700 Ghana cedis to purchase roofing sheets to roof my new house. And I also saved 1,000 Ghana cedis at the bank. I am very excited.

Host 2:
Edwin Saho growsokroand maize in the community of Hipko, in Volta Star’s listening area. He also expressed unhappiness with middle-men. But the MIS program helped him know where to sell his crops, and what varieties of crops were needed.
Edwin Saho:
We got to know through the program that the market wanted thelabadiandabalavivarieties ofokro. These give higher yields, have longer shelf life, and the traders pay more for them … We therefore changed our seed and now we earn more money … Even more importantly, the radio has made Hikpo farmers popular. Hikpo is mentioned on-air because we have so muchokroat a cheaper price and needed traders to come and buy in bulk. Through the program, I made a profit of 300 Ghana cedis, which is three times what I would have earned without the program. The program is so good and must be continued.

Host 2:
A system called Farmers’ Phone was implemented in Ghana. This allowed farmers to make calls to three different phone numbers. These numbers connected farmers to pre-recorded campaign programs and market prices. They could also leave a message for the program host. More than 4300 calls were made to Farmers’ Phone across the country between the end of January and the end of May 2010. Almost half of these were related to market prices. This shows the popularity of services that offer market prices and other marketing information. It also shows the potential of new technologies such as mobile phones to support more effective MIS programming in Ghana.

Host 1:
As in Mali, an evaluation was conducted at the end of the campaign. The survey showed that listeners to both Radio Ada and Volta Star appreciated the new type of MIS because it went beyond simply announcing market prices. The programs discussed farmers’ issues, engaged with farmers, and dealt with the challenges of transportation and market intermediaries. By listening to discussions of market conditions directly from the markets, farmers could plan their transportation ahead of time. They could decide which market would give them the best prices for their produce, and which markets had the lowest prices for purchasing produce.

Host 1:
You’ve been listening to a program on Marketing Information Services in Mali and Ghana. Next time, we will present part two of our program on MIS programs, and will look at MIS in Uganda and Tanzania. Goodbye for now.

Host 2:


  • Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, managing editor, Farm Radio International
  • Reviewed by: Sheila Huggins-Rao, Manager, Impact Programming, Farm Radio International

Information sources

  • The information in this script is taken from a report entitled, Marketing on the Airwaves: Marketing information services (MIS) and radio. The report is available [in English only for now] at: