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Eliminating Fake Agrochemicals using SMS on the mobile phone

Bruce Kisitu's picture

 

Following the introduction of a scratch and send label found on selected agro chemicals, farmers in Uganda can now verify whether what they are buying is Genuine or Fake.

Unscrupulous entrepreneurs produce counterfeit pesticide packaging and fill it with inert product, sell inferior grain as quality seed and palm gravel off as fertilizer.  Neither law enforcement agencies nor Ministries of Agriculture nor the private sector have been able to make any real headway in reducing this illegal trading which, according to Felix Jumbe, Executive Director of the Seed Trade Association of Malawi, “makes the poor poorer.”

With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), IFDC is helping eliminate counterfeit crop protection products (CPPs) which account for about 30% of the agro chemical sales in Sub-Saharan Africa. IFDC staff members have designed a simple countermeasure and, in partnership with CropLife Africa Middle East (CLAME) and CropLife Uganda, has launched a program to scientifically test the effectiveness of the methodology.

When a farmer visits an agro dealer shop, they purchase an agro chemical which is specially marked with a scratch panel.

 

After scratching, a 12 digit number is displayed which the buyer sends to a short code number.

 

The manufacturer of the product sends an instant message informing the buyer whether the product is fake or genuine.

The program is using a simple technology called Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) which can be adopted by farmers even in remote areas on any mobile phone because it is similar to loading airtime and is well-known to everybody.

The program is supported by the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, the Uganda National Agro-Input Dealers Association (UNADA) and the Grameen Foundation.

Contribution: Bruce Kisitu & Peter Bloch

 

Comments

Wow, very interesting! It's great to see that they are testing ways to ensure farmers are not being cheated in their purchasing of agro chemicals. Additionally, it seems to be a practical use of text messages on cell phones. If farmers do not have a cell phone themselves, will they have easy access to finding someone that does (from the Grameen Foundation, for example)?

Bruce Kisitu's picture

Molly,

Farmers with no phones can use a neighbour or friend's phone to authenticate an agro chemical. In cases where a farmer fails to get a phone, they can use the agro dealer's phone. Participating agro dealers have been trained to support farmers as part of customer care services. Below are images showing farmers being assisted to authenticate an agro chemical they have bought.

Grameen Foundation's community knowledge workers CKWs) are using their mobile phones to promote and also help farmers to authenticate agro chemicals in their areas of operation.  

                        

 Here is a video developed by IFDC to sensitize farmers on the dangers of buying fake agro chemicals.

 

 

Thank you, Bruce, for explaining the different outlets and providing the pictures. I hope this proves to be a successful initiative!

 

Dear Bruce,

Thanks for sharing.

I was in a farmers meeting in kasese last week and farmers raised the concern of fake inputs. I informed them about this initiative and they were so excited. This initiative comes at a time when it is needed most and I have hope it will succeed. 

 

The discusson on mobile technology and its application in rural agriculture has being intriguing. First, Bruce presented how IFDC, USAID and COMESA are working together to fight counterfeit agrochemicals using mobile technology, and second, Possiano shared with us how farmers in Kasese (Uganda) were excited when they learned about it. 
 
I just would like to leave with us some issues for further discussion: 
1. How effective has the mobile technology been in the fight against counterfeit agrochemicals? Do farmers in especially remote communities easily understand the use of the Mobile Authentication Service (MAS)? 
2. Is the Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) that Bruce described available on all Mobile Telecom providers / carriers in Uganda?
 
Regards,
Mustapha
Bruce Kisitu's picture

Dear Mustapha,

Thank you for posing those questions.

Yes the Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) is available on all mobile Telecome providers.

The implementation of MAS involved a massive sensitization drive which included Radio, video screening in rural communities, SMS and Voice messaging. This enabled rural communities understand how the MAS works. Preliminary results reveal that farmers have refused to buy products without specially marked packs forcing agro dealers to stock specially marked marks brands. In some areas like Masaka and Mityana, it was reported that counterfeiters changed the stickers on the bottles abandoning the brand names of the specially marked packs. The distributors also sold out all their stock an indication of a rise in demand for genuine specially marked packs.

I will be happy to share with you the full results as soon as they are flagged off.

Am also happy to respond to any other question that you may have

 

Many thanks

 

Bruce

Ssekatawa Isaac's picture

This is a good innovation but there is still an information gap becuase many farmers are not aware that such a wonderful technology exists. Am supplised have found it at teca yet am a farmer in Wakiso. What of our farmers who dont have access to internet?  

Bruce Kisitu's picture

Dear Mr Ssekatawa,

Thank you, I appreciate your comment. Am so happy to see a farmer contributing on the TECA platform, it reveals where we are heading in terms of sharing and reaching out to farmers.

The Mobile Authentication Service started as a pilot operating in a few districts of Uganda. Unfortunately Wakiso was not included in the pilot  - am sure because they wanted to test the service among rural communities. In the roll out, am certain Wakiso will be part of the program. But am sure you can get specially marked packs in Kampala or genuine store, that is if they are still in stock. What I know is that the importers run out of stock early October and there no new stock yet. I will keep you posted on any developments.

Thanks again

 

Many thanks to Bruce for updating us on how MAS is changing the market dynamics of agrochemicals in Uganda. We hope that this effort can be sustained over time.

I am very excited to hear the story of Isaac on our platform, and I think we need to do more in order to get more farmers share their concerns and experiences with us directly.

Going forward, I would like to know whether there other known ways of checking if a particular agrochemical is fake or not?

Mustapha