internet Vs mobile phone: rural farmers to judge!

18 04 2010

Talking about social media and ICT. Today I am helping my friend Cissy to create a Facebook page for her organization. She works with Ntulume Village Women’s Development Association (NVIWODA). In a humble setting lies the story of the Ntulume Village Women’s Development Association (NVIWODA). In June 1987 a group of women residing in Ntulume Village founded, Ntulume Village Women Development Association. NVIWODA operates in ten districts of Uganda, the organization equips women with skills, networks and shares knowledge and information with twenty seven women community based groups.

Apparently NVIWODA does not have an independent website, however they are hosted on a subdomain www.nviwoda.internnection.com – powered by Kabissa and also profiled on the women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) website – http://www.wougnet.org/Profiles/nviwoda.html

NVIWODA is one of the 99 or so women organizations profiled on the WOUGNET website.

As we chat she sparks a question, “So, how has the internet benefited the rural farmers in marketing their produce?”

Nice question – I think to myself. But the internet has not benefited the rural farmers that much when it comes to marketing their produce. The rural farmers have more or less benefited from the internet indirectly. As a matter of fact, access in rural areas remains a big challenge.

But this doesn’t mean that rural farmers have not used ICTs to commodity prices. The mobile phone has proved to be a

Women farmers testing use of Mobile Phones to access commodity prices..

very handy tool due to its flexibility in functionality and yet doesn’t require special skills to operate.

I telling her a living example on how Kubere Information Centre –  a project formed by Women of Uganda Network under the Information Sharing and Networking program has helped many rural farmers over the years on how to use ICTs to access agricultural information. Kubere Information Centre works with rural farmers from Lira, Oyam and Apac. These farmers are also trained on how to use the mobile phone to access commodity prices.

She was so excited to hear this; that the mobile phone can be used to access commodity prices. “I would love to share this knowledge with the rural farmers we work with.” I demonstrated to her how to access the commodity prices on her phone which is on the MTN service/ network. We request for the market prices for matooke – the sms charge is UGX220 (approximately USD 0.10). In just a few seconds she has the commodity prices for matooke in various districts around Uganda – “Interesting now I know how to use my phone better! I will be using my phone to send market prices to my colleagues in rural areas.”

Apparently she is working on an idea which involves the use of a notice board. On this notice board the farmers write their market prices prior to the communal markets in their rural areas. She says once implemented this idea would help reduce on exploitation of rural farmers. She says that this idea will first be implemented in Kabarole and then to other districts. She will also use her cell phone to access the commodity prices which she will then pass on to rural farmers to write on their notice boards prior to the market day.

“Many farmers in rural areas sell off their produce not for profit but to get necessities like kerosene to fuel lamps in homes.”

Become a Fan of NVIWODA on Facebook!!

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Information & Telecommunication Technologies for Agriculture

5 05 2009
A woman Illustrated how to use her mobile phone to get updates of farm produce market prices.

A woman farmer Illustrates how to use her mobile phone to get updates of farm produce market prices during a face-to-face meeting.

The question as of whether “Information and Telecommunication Technologies can be used as a major tool in fighting poverty across all sectors in Africa and the rest of the world” is finding answers to itself. The different technologies, software and tools designed with varying sets of functionality where “we are our own limits” have increased on the innovativeness of people who have access to these resources!

Well this is not news really, but if its news to you then you are probably asking yourself how this is possible (Information and Telecommunication Technology for Agriculture?).

Meanwhile, in Uganda today the ICT4 Development, ICT4 Education and ICT4 women have already set off. And many new ideas have been applied in the relevant fields.

Kubere Information Centre is a nongovernmental organization in Apac district (Northern Uganda) established under the project ““Enhancing Access to Agricultural Information using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)” whose

Women farmers testing the SMS application.

Women farmers testing the SMS application.

primary target is rural women farmers in Apac District, with partner women groups in Gulu, Lira and Oyam Districts.

The project is one of Women of Uganda Network’s (WOUGNET) activities. This project is conducted with generous financial support from the Technical Centre for Agriculture (CTA) and Hivos is funding one of Women of Uganda Network’s projects under the Kubere Information Centre (KIC) to promote Agriculture in Apac District of northern Uganda.

Most of the farmers under this project were producing on a small scale but now as empowered groups, they produce on a comparatively bigger scale. Their mother language is “Luo” however a few learnt farmers can speak English.  These farmers were divided into small groups according to their area of residence. And each group was given a mobile phone to simplify communication amongst the groups and with the Kubere Information Centre.

Kubere Information Centre was put in place to monitor the activities of these women groups and also to avail them with all the necessary agricultural information. KIC also answers most of the farmer questions through a QAS (Question and Answer System). The centre makes sure that all answers to questions are provided in both English and Luo. KIC has also built a website with “local content” (with two languages; English and Luo) to enable all farmers to harness the opportunities availed by ICTs.

Through partnership with Radio Apac, KIC has also been able to prepare weekly radio scripts and aired live on radio

Women farmers listen to a radio show while Kubere Information Centre staff take their questions.

Women farmers listen to a radio show while Kubere Information Centre staff take their questions.

interactive radio shows/programs with experts in farming/agriculture enabling rural farmers in Apac, Gulu, Lira and Oyam district to share ideas with a wider community.

Other activities include face-to-face meetings with the women farmers, use of SMS to get updates on market prices and the sourcing relevant agricultural information from the internet.