FARMERS across the country who have access to mobile phones will now be able to sell their products by accessing simple menus on their devices.
Digicel Fiji, in partnership with F1 Mobile Solutions, has created a mobile-based 'buy and sell' platform called 'Fiji Makete.' The technology used in the 'buy and sell' applications is known as Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) that is used by the network to send information (usually text menu) between a mobile phone and an application on the network.
The application also allows farmers to access information about market pricing for their cash crops. The 'buy and sell' feature is available on most phones that are used today. To access the menus on the phone, customers may dial a certain number and get a menu which includes information such as; Sell, Buy, Weather, Registration etc. Users are then able to select the required service and continue with the transaction. For example, if the user chooses the 'Sell' option, the list of offers will be sent to the user in a text message.
"If you think about our farmers in the rural communities, they hardly have access to any kind of communication. If a farmer had a product to sell, it is quite difficult for people in the surrounding communities and in the urban areas to know about it. So this will give an opportunity to those farmers to be able to post a product that they want to sell," F1 Mobile Solutions consultant Damien Whippy said.
Digicel Fiji chief executive officer Maurice McCarthy said they were happy to bring opportunity and technology to places that had not experienced it before.
"With the success of this program in other countries, we are confident that it will benefit Fiji's farmers," he said.
Fiji Makete is part of government's initiative too, implemented with the assistance of the International Trade Centre (ITC). Government had developed a 'Fruit and Vegetable' strategy, with a focus on import substitution through increased local production and supply of the tourism sector. A 'Feed the Hotels' initiative was also initiated, working with farmers in the Sigatoka Valley to supply fruits and vegetables to the hotels along the Coral Coast. Some of the stakeholders for the 'Fiji Makete' project include the Ministry of Primary Industries — Department of Agriculture, F1 Mobile Solutions, Digicel, National Crop and Livestock Council, Fiji Agro Processors Association, and Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association. The Fiji Makete project will be launched next year and aims to make it easier to collect and capture data and facilitate more efficient distribution of information.