One month ago we went live with our new prototype in a cashew nut business process in Ghana. This prototype is part of the ACi (Africa Cashew Initiative) project which “purpose is to strenghten the global competitiveness of cashew production and processing in Africa and to assist small scale cashew farmers to increase their productivity and thus gain additional income. It concentrates on ten countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, and The Gambia.” (see “Competitiveness of the African Cashew Sector” published by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ)).
Our research team is active in Ghana only for the first deployment. Our current prototype setup involves about 400 cashew farmers that are organized in several zones. Our prototype consists of a mobile application that supports the cashew buying at the individual buyingstations where farmers sell their cashew nuts, an offline desktop application where the farmer master data is managed and transactions are analyzed using a GIS (geographical information system) interface, and a server where all information is centralized and processed for synchronization to the individual nodes.
Spezific to the mobile application (which is by the way an Android application) is that the synchronization protocol is basic SMS. Since there is no reliable GPRS coverage available SMS is the only reliable protocol to use. To make it efficient and to lower the costs for sending SMS messages we’ve developed an advanced synchronization mechanismn to synchronize master data and transaction data. To realize this and to enable the entire application to run offline but still provide access and functionality using the complete farmer master data and transaction information of almost 400 farmers we use the built in SQLite DB of Android.
Anoter specific feature of the Android mobile application is that we use a barcode scanner to improve the Cashew Buying Process. The mobile is able to scan barcodes we’ve attached to the cashew sacks and barcodes to identify the farmer (barcodes in their ID booklet). Thus we are now able to trace every single cashew sack back to the individual farmer and follow the sack from the farmer to the buyer – Traceability is a key enabler for more advanced Cashew Nut processing chain. Currently we are monitoring the ongoing transaction activities of the cashew season and work on improvements on application usability side. The next cycle of the incremental roll-out will be mid of May.