Nelly Bassily | May 2, 2011
The number of mobile phones in Africa overtook the number of landlines about ten years ago. Many farmers in rural areas who could never have hoped for a landline now have their own mobile, or have access to mobile phone services in their community. This huge growth, and the increasing reach of related technologies such as internet, creates many opportunities for farmers. They can connect to people and places they could not previously reach. They can find information (for example, on weather, new techniques or markets) that enables them to develop and diversify their farming activities.
Read more about mobile the use of phones and new ICTs in African agriculture here:
-How mobile phones are transforming African agriculture: http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/how-mobile-phones-are-transforming-african-agriculture/8704/
Here you can read about farmers in Zambia can use SMS messages to send questions to the National Agriculture Information Services: http://iconnect-online.org/blogs/national-agricultural-information-services-use-smsize-internet-based-platform-improve-farmer-p
For more information on the phone application mentioned in the story, visit: http://mfarm.co.ke/
Below are links to previous Farm Radio Weekly stories on how farmers use cell phones:
Kenya: Farmers link to markets through SMS (FRW 99, February 2010).
Africa: Cell phones help farmers and traders do business more efficiently (FRW 7, January 2008). 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 research a story about how farmers in your area are using cell phones or other ICTs. Start by talking to farmers you know, leaders of farmers’ organizations, or extension officers. Once you have identified an interesting new technology or a service that is popular in your area, identify and interview a few farmers who use it regularly. Here are some questions to ask:
-How did they hear about this new technology/service?
-How did they get set up and trained to use it?
-How much does it cost to use it?
-In general, how is the technology/service most useful to them as farmers?
-Can they describe a specific instance when the new technology/service helped them (for example, by giving them information on how to treat a disease, providing them with a timely weather forecast, or connecting them with a trader)?
-Has this service helped them to save time or money, or to earn more money?
-Have they had any technical difficulties? If so, what have they learned about dealing with them?
-What tips would they offer to other farmers on how to more effectively use the technology/service?