“The voice of the farmer” vs. “The voice of the farmers”

I was surprised this morning when I read the news coming from the e-agriculture portal:

Mobile service provider Airtel Africa has announced that it is working with the GSMA to initiate a project to provide approximately 250 000 small-holder farmers in Kenya with reliable and relevant agricultural information via their mobile phones.

The innovative project, called Sauti ya Mkulima (Swahili for ‘voice of the farmer’), aims to provide farmers with access to pertinent agriculture-related information, advice and research that will help them make better decisions about their crops, increasing the productivity of their yield, as well as their potential income.

It will also help create a farmer community within which peers can share experiences and exchange information about social gatherings, events, and job opportunities.

Shivan Bhargava, Managing Director of Airtel Kenya, explains: ‘Our Sauti ya Mkulima project will provide small-holder farmers with access to quality content, information and know-how on agriculture-related activities. Gaining access to this information will be immensely beneficial to the farmers whose livelihoods are dependent on their yield. The information will allow them to make better informed decisions that will result in improved productivity.’

(The news originally came from IT News Africa. This project is related to the mFarmer initiative)

My surprise came, of course, from the similarity between the names of Airtel’s new project and ours, Sauti ya wakulima. It’s very likely that Airtel Kenya and Tanzania already know about our project, as it has gained some recognition in these last months through articles in the local press and radio broadcasts. So they probably took the name. But did they also appropriate our values? That would be a good thing … Continue reading

Sauti ya wakulima reloaded !

After a few months of inactivity, Sauti ya wakulima is rolling again. The farmers are now using new Android smartphones with the Swahili version of the ojoVoz application. Although we still need to find ways of expanding the project, we are quite hopeful: we have good chances of materializing an agreement with the Bagamoyo District Direction, and we have the full support of the local Agricultural Office.

Mrs. Renada Msaki. Source: http://sautiyawakulima.net

In fact, the Bagamoyo Agricultural Office has found that Sauti ya wakulima can be very valuable in amplifying the work of extension officers. According to their statistics, one of the biggest weaknesses in Bagamoyo is the insufficient number of extension officers. Currently, there is a ratio of 1 extension officer per 1,145 farmers: almost half of the ideal, established at 1:600.

Stay tuned for upcoming news!

The voice of the expert farmer

Living in a remote and inaccessible region, such as the Kabale District in the southwestern tip of Uganda, is a powerful reason for establishing mobile-based services for farmers. With its rugged terrain, mountains of over 2,000 m., and inadequate road networks, Kabale is predominantly agricultural. Farmers there are not only isolated: they also suffer from lack of credit and financial services, up-to-date information about seeds, weather patterns, appropriate fertilizers, pests, and other agricultural issues, and also volatile market prices. Traditionally, the government’s agricultural extension service was the main source of information for farmers in Uganda, but the current ratio of extension workers to farmers in the country is 1:24,000, rendering the service largely ineffective.

Landscape of Kabale. Source: Edirisa (CC)

Continue reading

Farmers as Alpha and Beta testers

Rural e-Services Project in India (ReSPI) was an action research project aimed towards the development of sustainable ICT solutions for empowering rural communities in India to improve their livelihoods. It started in India on April 2007, with funding from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, United Kingdom and was managed by Sheffield Hallam University, U.K.

According to a paper by Dr. S. M. Haider Rizvi and Dr. Andy Dearden, unlike traditional ICT Designing Methodologies, in ReSPI the users (farmers) were treated as co-designers at every stage of the project. Besides seeking their true participation at every level through meetings, focus group discussions, interviews and other PRA exercises – timelines, matrix ranking, chapatti diagramming, the focus always remained to make the processes themselves empowering for the people, giving them control over the processes and the power to decide as per their needs and local realities.

Sounds great. But it’s a real shame that the only available evidence of ReSPI is the paper written about its processes and outcomes. Unavailability of accessible evidence greatly undermines research, particularly a valuable one, such as this project. But let’s continue reviewing the project. Continue reading

Freedom Fone

Freedom Fone is an open source mobile application which was born from the question: “How do we get information that matters to those who need it most?”. This application creates interactive, voice-based communication services for organisations or individuals seeking to engage with communities across mobile networks.

Source: freedomfone.org

Source: freedomfone.org

Freedom Fone was created by the people at Kubatana, an organization based in Zimbabwe which aims to strengthen the use of email and Internet strategies in Zimbabwean NGOs and civil society organisations. At their website, Kubatana make human rights and civic education information accessible. Continue reading

Sauti ya wakulima on National Geographic NewsWatch

A few weeks ago, Ken Banks of FrontlineSMS invited me to write an article about Sauti ya wakulima for the blog series he produces for National Geographic NewsWatch. And now the article is live:

Smart phones meet smart farming: Indigenous knowledge sharing in Tanzania

National Geographic Daily News

 

Sauti ya wakulima featured on MobileActive

A few days ago, Sauti ya wakulima was featured as a case study on MobileActive.

MobileActive

MobileActive is a global network of people using mobile technology for social impact. MobileActive is committed to expanding the knowledge and experiences about the use of mobile phones and to accelerating the use of effective strategies and tactics while reducing the learning costs for organizations.