For rural people with little or no disposable income, exchanging goods, services and skills with community members is an important part of their livelihoods. Using mobile, people could access an online bartering platform via their mobile phone, significantly extending the network of people to barter with. Users could register their location and the goods, services or skills they are offering, along with details of what they need in return. SMS adverts could be sent to subscribed users, prompting them to respond. Transient agricultural workers could also use the platform to advertise their skills and find work. Farm managers and owners could find workers at short notice, for instance when they need to harvest crops early to stop them being ruined by bad weather. Farmers could barter their surplus food items after a harvest so that food reaches community members in need, rather than spoiling in poor storage.
Using mobile phones for bartering could help those most in need within agricultural communities to access essential goods and services, and pass important skills from one community member to another. Mobile bartering could increase agricultural income by US$16 billion in 2020, with an anticipated 55 million farmers using the service. Connecting local people to trade goods or services could reduce the number of journeys they need to make, avoiding 0.2 Mt of carbon emissions.
A mobile bartering platform developed by Vodafone Egypt is helping community members exchange goods and services through online adverts. The platform could be used by agricultural workers in rural communities. Forsa, the Arabic word for opportunity, is a mobile bartering platform that gives low-income workers such as craftsmen and domestic maids a low-cost way to advertise their skills via their mobile phone. Forsa helps to connect local people with each other to exchange goods and services, reducing the distances they have to travel to make exchanges.
So far 3,000 adverts have been posted through Forsa, helping people to make exchanges with items like food crops, petrol, or motorbike parts. Trained ‘ambassadors’ promote the service, earning a small commission for showing new users how to post adverts and find people to exchange with.