A young Ghanaian entrepreneur, Alloysius Attah, has been named amongst seven finalists for 2014 Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards.
The finalists were selected from 816 entries received on the Ashoka Changemakers platform hailing from 88 countries.
The international awards programme is delivered by Unilever in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).
The awards programme is aimed at rewarding inspirational entrepreneurs aged 30 and under who have developed a product, service or application that helps make sustainable living commonplace.
A panel will choose an overall winner who will be awarded with HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize at a prestigious dinner at the Guildhall on 27 January 2015.
The winner will receive funding support of €50,000 and the remaining six finalists €10,000.
They will all participate in a twelve month mentoring programme which aims to harness the diverse expertise, scale and influence of Unilever and CISL to support finalists to scale their business’ revenue and impact and hone their entrepreneurial skills.
According to Unilever CEO Paul Polman, expressed his satisfaction and added that the programme was created to award young people who will sustain development the future
saying, “I am delighted that, in its second year, the Awards attracted 60 percent more entries than in the inaugural year, resulting in a very high calibre of semi-finalists and the seven truly impressive finalists we announce today.”
“It is a strong signal that young entrepreneurs are really welcoming access to the right support to help them lead the development of entrepreneurial responses to a changing world,” he added.
The finalist from Ghana Growing up in rural Ghana on two acres of land farmed by his aunt, Alloysius experienced first hand the challenges facing the smallholder farmers that account for 80% of Ghana’s domestic food production.
Traditionally, the kind of advice Farmerline disseminates has been provided by government officers, who are tasked with visiting farming communities in-person to share best-practices.
However, on average, there is only one agent on the ground for every 2000 farmers, which has resulted in a lack of timely and locally relevant information reaching smallholder farmers, many of whom are women.
As a result, farmers suffer from low yield and high post-harvest loss.
In Ghana the gap between achievable yields and actual yields can be over 50%.
Whilst at the University, Alloysius founded a business called Fast forward a few years and Farmerline.
It was aimed at helping smallholder farmers, like his aunt, increase yields by providing access to critical agricultural information via their mobile phones in their local language.
Farmerline’s technology links farmers to markets, weather information, new farming techniques, finance, inputs and equipment services to increase their productivity and income.
The platform provides information using not just text messages, but voice too, which opens up the service to the large number of smallholder farmers in Ghana who are illiterate.
Farmers pay a small seasonal subscription fee to receive agronomic alerts and use the platform’s dedicated helpline, whilst government programmes and businesses are able to reach smallholder farmers directly using mobile messaging and surveys.
No technical knowledge or hardware investment is required, the platform works on the most basic feature phones, as well as smart phones.
Since Alloysius, 25, launched Farmerline alongside his co-founder Emmanuel Owusu Addai in March 2013, over 4000 farmers have accessed information which has resulted in increased productivity, elevated income and improved standards of living.
Farmerline’s latest impact assessment indicates that farmers who have used this service for an entire season increased their income by 55.6% per acre.
By: Patricia Conteh/citifmonline.com/Ghana