Nelly Bassily | February 15, 2010
Linking smallholder farmers to better markets, especially better-paying produce markets ? that’s the reason that the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is expanding in agriculture. A number of ICT initiatives are popping up in African countries. The idea is to use mobile phones to resolve some of the constraints farmers face. Constraints include: poor access to information and technical advice, and insufficient access to input markets and well-paying produce markets.
Cell phones can save farmers time and money when they send and receive information such as market prices for their products or weather conditions for their crops.
Cell phone use among Africans is rising. According to the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union, 75 per cent of all African phone users in 2004 used cell phones. At the same time, effective communication methods, such as cell phones, have increased competition among traders, which can ultimately mean better prices for farmers.
Farm Radio Weekly published a story in January 2008 about an short message service (SMS) system called TradeNet that helps farmers get better market prices: “Cell phones help farmers and traders do business more efficiently.” (http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/01/21/4-africa-cell-phones-help-farmers-and-traders-do-business-more-efficiently-farm-radio-weekly-africanewscom/)
You may wish to gauge the opinions of your listeners on cellular technologies and agriculture, or, you may wish to research a local story on the topic. Here are some questions that might help:
– How do farmers in your area sell their products?
– Do farmers in your area have access to cell phones? If so, do they use SMS to receive market prices or sell goods?
– Have farmers in your area increased their incomes by using cell phones?
– Do farmers use their cell phones to receive or exchange other information that helps them in their farming?
If you interview farmers who use cell phones, we would be very interested in hearing their stories. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, here are some other resources on SMS and internet technology for farmers:
-The official website for TradeNet, offered in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese: www.tradenet.biz.
-The website for DrumNet: http://www.drumnet.org/
-YouTube videos that explain the DrumNet project: