This project concerns the organisation and performance of vegetable marketing in Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, representing three different regions of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Smallholder farmers in these countries – and more widely in SSA – face a range of marketing problems, among which informational constraints are much cited but little researched. Producers experience a weak bargaining position vis-à-vis traders: often they do not have timely access to salient and accurate information on prices, locations of effective demand, preferred quality characteristics of horticultural produce, nor alternative and trustworthy marketing channels.
Solutions to such problems conventionally have been sought through state provision of information. The approach here is that market institutions will evolve to overcome the problems of uncertainty and the failures in public information systems. The project aims were to suggest mechanisms for improving information flows in markets serving poor producers and other stakeholders, and to find an appropriate balance between the coordinating role of the state and private initiatives.
The research in each country aimed to explore slightly different elements of informational problems. In Ghana, the issue was uncertainty: informational imperfections arising from limited business acumen among producers and high levels of mistrust between stakeholders. The research in Tanzania explored informational issues connected with social heterogeneity and market imperfections. In Zimbabwe, the focus was types of information needs and the potential for delivery by the public sector.