Echnoserve’s Yezare – climate and market information at farmers’ fingertip in Ethiopia

Echnoserve

Due to lack of market information, many smallholder farmers in Ethiopia lose crops or sell at below market price to middle men, something that can cost them a significant amount of their livelihoods. ‘We saw this problem again and again when working in the agricultural sector and we decided it was time to take action’, says Daniel Fikreyesus, co-founder and manager of Echnoserve Consulting Ethiopia and one of the people behind their innovation Yezare.

Innovation for change

Echnoserve is an innovative social enterprise located in Ethiopia and the US working at the interface of environment, agriculture, climate change, renewable energy and ICT solutions. Yezare means ‘today’ in Amharic, one of the two principal languages in Ethiopia, and is designed to provide information on weather patterns and market conditions to smallholder farmers through an easy accessible platform. Yezare provides information via text messages directly to farmers´ mobile phones, customized in their own languages – something that is unique in a country like Ethiopia where more than 80 languages are spoken.

‘Most farmers have access to a phone. Delivering information through text messages enables us to reach farmers even in the most rural locations. Our goal is to reach 140.000 farmers in the next two years’ – Daniel.

Empowerment and resilience

Information is key to empower smallholder farmers, to ensure they build climate resilience and to strengthen livelihoods. Climate change causes challenges like unreliable rain, severe storm and droughts, something that even the most experienced farmer can’t anticipate and plan for. With local weather information, farmers can plant and harvest at the right time ensuring that crops are not lost. With access to market information, farmers can cut out the middlemen and sell their products at a higher price.

To reach the many farmers who live in rural areas in a big country like Ethiopia, Echnoserve has worked closely with farmer cooperatives, especially targeting youth and women who are more often small scale fruit and vegetable farmers.

‘Fruit and vegetables have a short shelf life meaning that farmers need to sell their harvest relatively quickly. To be able to make an informed decision, information is key.’ – Daniel.

Innovations Against Poverty as a catalyst for change

Echnoserve is one of 35 grantees of the Innovations Against Poverty challenge fund jointly implemented by Sida and SNV in partnership with BoP Innovation Center and Inclusive Business Sweden. Penetrating the market with a new technology is not easy according to Daniel. A lot of time needs to be spent on promoting the product in the field with the end users – farmers, and this is very expensive. The funding from IAP will serve as a catalyst for the piloting phase, covering a big part of that cost.

‘We are sure that farmers will pay for our product when they see the benefits of it – we just need to ensure we can reach them where they are.’ – Daniel

The confidence at Echnoserve in their innovation is based on rigorous market research. The first prototype was launched in early 2017 and since then, Echnoserve has collected feedback from farmers, development agents and NGOs to be able to improve the design. The latest version of Yezare was released earlier this year and is now in its piloting face.