September 21, 2010

Mobile Phones Connect Farmers to Agricultural Information

Pineapple.jpeg The Community Knowledge Worker program brings "relevant, actionable information" to poor, remote farmers in Uganda, according to David Edelstein, the Grameen Foundation's technology center director. TMCnet.com reports via @mobileactive.

quotemarksright.jpg The program started in 2009 in Uganda's Bushenyi and Mbale districts. Trusted local residents, such as farmers, agriculture extension workers, shopkeepers and school teachers, were trained to disseminate and gather information about agriculture using mobile phones.

The workers help the Ugandan farmers treat not only sick goats, but also blighted bananas, coffee berry bacterial infections, discolored tomatoes and other plant and livestock problems. In addition, the mobile phone-equipped workers have put farmers in touch with markets and weather forecasts.

"What we have seen so far is really encouraging," Edelstein said. "Farmers have seen their crop yields rise. They have learned better planting techniques by the phone. They have been able to diagnose problems with pests and diseases. They monitor market prices by phone. The mobile phones enable them to bargain more effectively with middle men." "In the past, some guy pulls up in a truck, puts 100 head of cabbage in the back, pays off the farmer and drives away.

"Now, with the Community Knowledge Workers helping, the farmers can combine their cabbages into a single batch and force the buyer to pay a better price," Edelstein said.

Weather forecasts are another element of the information service that farmers value. "Farmers are able to avoid planting seeds or applying fertilizer just before a storm hits and washes everything away," Edelstein said.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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