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  1. 1. Reaching Out and Listening to Farmers: the Case of NAIS Internet Based SMS Platform Darlington Kahilu Agricultural Information Officer/Programme Producer National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) Lusaka, Zambia Email: dakahilu@yahoo.co.ukAbstractFarmers in Zambia, like elsewhere in Africa, are faced with problems of how to accesstimely and up-to-date technical agricultural information to help them improve theirproductivity. This is mainly due to, among other reasons, a lack of adequate frontlineagricultural extension officers in farming communities, a poor flow of information to andfrom farmers, and inadequate communication between research institutions andextension services. With the increased use of information and communication toolssuch as mobile phones, it is now possible for farmers in rural and remote areas to bereached by mobile telephone and have access to up-to-date information at any giventime. Therefore, in 2007, the National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) opted touse information and technology-based solutions to improve feedback to and fromfarmers in Zambia. This led to the development of an Internet-based platform, launchedin 2011, that allows farmers to ask questions using Short Message Service (SMS)available on mobile telephones and receive answers within the shortest time possible.1.0 IntroductionFarmers in Zambia with any agricultural question including issues to do with climatechange can now receive quick answers via SMS from a new system developed byNational Agricultural Information services. This approach allows farmers to use theirmobile phones to send questions directly to the radio programme producers in thelanguage they are conversant with and receive answers in real time.The project, entitled “Strengthening the Agricultural Information Flow and DisseminationSystem of the National Agricultural Information Services In Zambia (SAIFADIS)“ is a
  2. 2. collaborative project between the National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) andthe International Institute of Communication and Development (IICD). NAIS isspecialised agricultural information unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock(MAL). The main role of NAIS is to support the extension services of the ministrythrough the dissemination of agricultural information to all players in the agriculturalsector, particularly the rural communities.NAIS is mandated to gather, process, package, store and disseminate informationthrough the use of radio, television, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, publicationsand audio-visual teaching aids.The NAIS, as part of agricultural extension service in Zambia, forms a link between theresearchers and the farmers. Innovations and findings coming from the researchers aregathered, processed and disseminated to the farmers in a form that is easilycomprehended. Farmers’ concerns and the manner in which they adopt thetechnologies are also relayed to the researchers, who in turn respond with appropriateinnovations. The project was therefore, introduced to NAIS in order to improve theinternal flow of information within NAIS and the external flow of agricultural informationbetween sources and the end-users. The approach adopted was to increase theefficiency of NAIS, with the use of modern information and communication tools (word-processing, email, Internet access, etc.) to gather, process, store, package anddisseminate information in order to increase farmers’ productivity.The first phase of the project focused on four main areas, namely; (1) hardware, (2)mainstreaming of the project activities within NAIS, (3) Information management, and(4) Information sharing.This paper highlights the implementation status during the first phase and describessome of the main activities being undertaken from the year 2010 and beyond.2.0 BackgroundThe agricultural sector generates an average of 23 percent, according to the Food andAgricultural Organisation (FAO), of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is a majorsource of livelihood for over 50% of the country’s population. Fifty percent of the
  3. 3. population depend on agricultural-related activities for income and food for theirlivelihood (Ministry of Finance and National Planning, May 2002).The sector absorbs about 67% of the labour force and remains the main source ofincome and employment for most rural women who constitute 65% of the total ruralpopulation (Ministry of finance and National Planning, May 2002; World DevelopmentReport 2000/2001). However, it is estimated that only 14 % of total agricultural land iscurrently being utilized. Zambia therefore, has the potential to expand agriculturalproduction given the vast resource endowment in terms of land, labour and water thatthe country possesses. Of Zambia’s total land area of 75 million hectares, 58% isclassified as medium to high potential for agricultural production, with rainfall rangingfrom 800 mm to 1400 mm annually.Table 1: 2010/2011 Crop Forecast Survey Area, Production, Yield, Expected Estimates Area expected to Crops: National Small & Medium only Number of Area be hh growing planted harvested this crop (ha) (ha)Maize 1,274,846 1,311,530 1,058,510Sorghum 48,139 25,867 21,479Rice 64,272 33,995 27,496Finger Millet 113,991 42,597 39,215Sunflower 84,810 39,638 35,701Groundnuts 654,585 223,298 208,452Soyabeans 46,015 20,060 19,029Seed Cotton 151,650 131,292 124,569Irish Potatoes 4,143 938 901Virginia Tobacco 9,087 7,496 7,421Burley Tobacco 19,961 10,046 9,460Mixed Beans 190,248 69,923 66,655Bambara nuts 39,517 5,750 5,621Cowpeas 8,214 1,942 1,853
  4. 4. Velvet Beans 164 63 63Coffee 154 29 29Sweet Potatoes 173,835 45,059 42,941Other Crops 343 123 123Paprika 313 81 81Pineapple 135 64 64Popcorn 5,357 3,275 2,954Sugar Cane 288 99 99Source: Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock and The CentralStatistical OfficeDespite its potential, the agricultural sector in Zambia has performed belowexpectations. One of the factors that have been repeatedly mentioned as responsiblefor this dismal performance has to do with the weak linkages between agriculturalresearchers, extensionists and the farmers. This and other factors, have led to lowproductivity, especially among small-scale farmers.Extension and information service provision plays an important role in agriculturaldevelopment in any country. In recognition of this fact, the Zambian government has,since independence in 1964, made an effort to establish an effective extension andinformation system in the country. The overall objective of this information provisionservice is to provide information to farmers so that they can make informed decisionsthat will improve their production and productivity in order to reduce poverty throughincome generation and food security (Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries,February 2001). Up until now, the extension-information provision has been donethrough person-to-person (farmer-extension officer) contact and mass media. Theextension officers are the front line implementers of the extension system of Ministry ofAgriculture and Livestock (MAL) extension system. However, these officers are few onthe ground, over-stretched and often de-motivated. It is currently estimated that there isan average of one officer to 1,000 farmers (National Agricultural Information Services,September 2002). This, coupled with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, has led to radical
  5. 5. reductions in the already small number of person-to-person extension and informationservices being offered. Notwithstanding situation, extension officers of the Departmentof Agriculture remain a critical link in the information chain between researchers andfarmers.3.0 Radio and broadcasting services for farmers in ZambiaZambia has long track-record of providing agricultural information services through theuse of mass media such as radio and television broadcasts and printed materialsincluding newspapers, in parallel with the mainstream extension services it offers.Broadcasting services of agricultural radio programs which target local small-scalefarmers were initiated as early as the mid-1960s with financial and technical assistancefrom UNESCO. Radio listening groups called ‘Radio Farm Forum Groups” were set upin rural communities all over the country and farmers were encouraged to listen to theradio programs with the motto of ‘Listen, Discuss and Act”. Since then, the ZambianGovernment has continued to produce agricultural radio programs through NAIS,although direct assistance of the Government to the listening farmer groups, such asfree provision of radio sets and batteries, has largely been withdrawn. NAIS alsoremains engaged in producing agricultural TV programs, publishing of magazines,newsletters and posters to provide the farming communities as well as otherstakeholders with various kinds of agricultural information. Figure 1: Basic Element/Components in an Agricultural Extension System
  6. 6. The current extension methodology, known as the Participatory Extension Approach(PEA), is about the improvement of the information services to the people and theextension officers in particular.3.1 Organization of Radio Farm Forums:To come-up with formidable farmer listening groups, National Agricultural InformationServices (NAIS) used group dynamics, where farmers were given the chance to decideand form a common interest group (radio listening). These groups were allowed to havea membership of between Ten (10) and Twenty Five (25) of men, women and youths.This number of membership was recommended to enhance good radio listening.After forming a group, the members were democratically, allowed to chose theirexecutive. The groups were given a radio set by the government, through which theywould listen to agricultural programmes and other developmental programmes. Thegovernment also provided these groups with batteries on monthly basis. As thecommunities kept growing, creating more demand for such groups, NAIS officers hadthe mandate to form new ones in such communities.The farmer groups were also allowed to propose and choose topics of their felt needswhich they wanted to listen to on radio. In the same vein, the farmers were also allowedto discuss a topic of their choice and have it recorded for on-ward delivery to the NAISHQ for broadcast, so as to allow other farmer groups listen and learn from them.This worked on the principle of letting farmers listen and learn from their fellow farmers,whom they would easily identify themselves with, instead of listening agriculturalspecialists only.3.2 How do Radio Farm Forums work?The standard process works as follows: At Radio Farm Forum (RFF) level, farmersgather and listen to agricultural technical information broadcasted via the radio. After thebroadcast, the RFF members discuss the topic which they have listened to and relate itto their local situation. As a group, they ask each member how well he or she hasunderstood the broadcast.After the discussions, farmers fill in a feedback report form, commonly referred to as aProceedings and Discussion Report. The main features of this form are: name of theforum, district, province, date of broadcast, subject/topic of broadcast, main pointsraised on the programme, questions raised by members on the subject of broadcast,
  7. 7. decisions taken by members on the subject, actions taken by members on previousbroadcasts, and members’ opinion about the quality of the programme.After farmers have filled in the Proceedings and Discussion Report form, wherepossible, it is handed over to the Camp Agricultural Extension Officer (CAEO) foronward delivery to the District Agricultural Information Officer (DAIO) who then posts thediscussion report form to the Radio Programme Producer at national level.Where the agricultural camp is not manned, the farmers have to post the discussionreport themselves or physically deliver the report to the District Agricultural InformationOfficer (DAIO).Once these various radio broadcasts are disseminate to the listening groups, NAISrelies on receiving feedback from the farmers to come up with new information productsthat answer the concerns of the farmers.3.3 Drawbacks with the ‘old’ systemThis system of communication proved to be time-consuming and costly on the part ofthe farmers as in most cases it took more than two months for farmers to give feedbackon the questions that were asked during each broadcast or any other urgent problemfaced by the farmers.Over the years, NAIS has been gathering agricultural information from different sourcesfor onward delivery to the farming community. The department has also spent manyyears packaging the information in form of Radio and TV programmes and Printmaterials.These information products have been made available to farmers and extension officersin the remote parts of the country. In the meantime, NAIS has continued to receivefeed-back from farmers on the programmes aired.Despite its mandate, NAIS encountered many difficulties in its efforts to efficientlycollect and deliver agricultural information from original sources to the end users –information gathering is done by getting the responsible officers travel directly to thesources. Alternatively, information packages are passed on via third party in hard copy.Information products such as audio cassettes, question and answer feedback forms,publications etc, have been delivered from districts to the Office Headquarters (HQ)
  8. 8. through ordinary postal services and members of staff travelling between the two points.However, these methods have proved costly and entail longer delivery periods.Moreover, there has been no systemic storage and retrieval system set up for theinformation NAIS has gathered over these years. Nor has there has been anycentralised information access point for farmers and other stakeholders such asextension offices in form of information resource centres.All the above shortcomings within NAIS have resulted in farmers failing to receive theinformation they require at the right time and in the right format.4.0 Establishment of the ICTs project in NAISFollowing the Siavonga Roundtable discussions in October 2002 in Zambia, theNational Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) came up with the idea of setting upFarmer Information Centres. However, during discussions between NAIS and variousstakeholders, it was realised that though the setting up of information centres wasimportant, these would not be workable without NAIS headquarters informationcoordination being; a) Efficient- Reducing duplication of efforts by the sections under NAIS (Press and Public Relations, Publications and Broadcasting) and; b) Effective- Ensuring that agricultural messages are consistent and reinforcing across sections under NAIS.Furthermore, recent studies done by NAIS with the support from Japan InternationalCooperation Agency (JICA), on its information services and programming haveindicated a clear need to strengthen information provision at district level.Therefore it was agreed that the idea should move away from setting up ruralinformation centres to strengthening NAIS HQ and district level offices and staff, andbuilding on the existing NAIS and agricultural structures to ensure improved collectionand dissemination of required information to and from farmers and extension staff. Thisentailed; i) Streamlining the information flow among NAIS sections and other MAL departments;
  9. 9. ii) Improving the coordination of information activities and; iii) Enhancing the ability of NAIS to collect, process, and disseminate information to and from farmers and other sector stakeholders;Strengthening the ability of NAIS to provide information to the agricultural community,especially extension workers and farmers, is important because agriculture is currentlythe mainstay of the Zambian economy and its growth will in turn help in povertyreduction.4.1 Objectives4.1.1 Development objectiveThe development objective is to improve small-scale farmers’ livelihoods in agricultureby improving the flow of information between researchers, extension providers, serviceproviders and farmers. This should lead to increased food production and crop exports,which in turn will result in improved food security and higher agricultural incomes athousehold level among the small-scale farmers.Through the improved information flow within the NAIS and between the originalsources of information and the end users, the project will also contribute to two UnitedNations Millennium Goals on poverty and the environment, namely:  On poverty, to reduce by 50% the number of the people whose income is less than one dollar per day and consequently to reduce by 50% the number of people who suffer from hunger by the year 2015  On the environment, to integrate the principles of sustainable development into the country’s agricultural policies and programmes; the project will lead to reduced processes of environmental degradation due to improved soil and water management, safer use of pesticides and less indiscriminate cutting down of trees.
  10. 10. 4.2 Overall objectivesThe project objective is to improve information flow within the NAIS and the flow ofagricultural information between sources and end users by increasing the efficiency ofthe NAIS to gather, process, store, package and disseminate information in order toincrease farmers’ productivity.4.2.1 Specific objectives are: 1. Improve information flow within the NAIS 2. Strengthen linkages between agricultural researchers, extension officers, farmers and other stakeholders; 3. Increase the capacity of the NAIS to collect, process, package, store and disseminate agricultural information; 4. Increase capacity of the NAIS to publish in more accurate and appropriate formats.5.0 AchievementsThe achievements of the project during the pilot phase of implementation will now bediscussed within the context of the four main components;5.1 Component 1: HardwareThe project managed to procure and install all the ICT equipment. This equipmentinclude four desktop computers for the Head Office in Lusaka and three desktopcomputers for the district offices in Kasama, along with two scanners, two Laser jetprinters, two digital recorders, two digital cameras, one LCD projector, one Modem,software programmes and other accessories. The project also managed to install aVSAT in Kasama. Additional computers have subsequently been procured by the NAISin order to ensure that each and every technical officer in the department has a workstation.5.2 Component 2: Mainstreaming of Project Activities in NAISA number of activities were undertaken in order to mainstream some of the projectactivities within NAIS so that they become part and parcel of NAIS’ daily office routine.
  11. 11. In addition to the computers that were procured through the project, the NAIS hascontinued procuring computers for its members of staff to the extent that every producerhas his/her own work-station. Focus group meetings and workshops were also held inorder to create awareness in NAIS and MAL of the benefits that ICTs can bring. Anumber of training courses on the use of ICTs were also conducted to boost the skills ofNAIS staff. One very positive development is that the Ministry of Agriculture andLivestock, through the NAIS, has now incorporated the cost the ICT equipment in itsannual budget. In addition, the NAIS project has also managed to set up an ICTSteering Committee jointly with the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI).5.3 Component 3: Information ManagementThis component of the project aimed at improving the NAIS information managementsystem, particularly processing and re-packaging information coming from researchinstitutions and other sources so that it could be easily accessed and used by extensionofficers and end users. The first step involved establishing formal linkages with some ofthe key organizations in the sector, such as the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute(ZARI), the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU), and the Swedish CooperativeCentre (SCC), extension staff, CTA, WREN media, and others. The project alsoimproved information flows internally within NAIS, notably between NAIS office inLusaka and NAIS’ Kasama offices.5.4 Component 4: Information SharingThe project tremendously improved NAIS’ information management system, particularlyin processing and re-packaging information coming from research and other sources toextension and end-users by:  Establishment of formal linkages with the ZARI, Department of Veterinary and Livestock Development (DVLD), ZNFU, SCC, Radio Mano (Kasama), extension officers and four farmers’ groups in Kasama.  Managing to send and receive relevant information between the NAIS offices in Kasama and Lusaka in form of Discussion reports, booklets, books and electronic messages.
  12. 12.  Creating a database and storing information using the Win SCP information storage system.  On a quarterly basis, monitoring and evaluating project performance through planning and review meetings in the project sites.6.0 Activities that were not achievedDespite scoring all of the above achievements, the project fell short of successfullyattaining the following activities:  Capturing audio information from farmers and agricultural technology specialists by the DAIO and information officers at HQ using audio recording machine for localized transmission on Radio Mano, a community station in Kasama. This was not successfully achieved partly because of the cost of airtime. However, arrangements are underway to involve the local stakeholders in finding ways to share the costs.  Timely responses to questions and feedback coming from farmers and other stakeholders. The continued sending of discussion reports and the airing of radio programmes from Lusaka made it difficult to quickly address the needs of the farmers in the pilot area since the producers at HQ had to also satisfy the needs of all the farmers.  Finding support to implement and maintain the project. This activity was not adequately addressed in the sense that much as many policy-makers have been convinced of the project’s potential and resources needed to implement it, no single donor has expressed willingness to support and help maintain the project.7.0 Constraints Although the project had greater achievements in meeting the objectives, a number of constraints resulted in it not reaching some of its desired objectives. Some of these constraints included:
  13. 13.  Delays in procuring project equipment and implementation through the sluggish government procurement system.  Slow and frequent breakdown of the internet connection in Lusaka and Kasama.  Lack of experience within the NAIS and among Subject Matter Specialists in the use of ICTs slowed down progress on improving information flow.  Omission of a budget line for the cost of production and broadcasting radio programmes through the community radio station (Radio Mano) based in Kasama.8.0 Proposed Future activitiesThe project has continued pursuing the same overall and specific objectives as statedabove. In addition to achieving most of the unfulfilled activities, the project has identifiedthe following issues that will require attention in the future:  Identify stakeholders in Kasama and other towns where community radio stations exist who can support the production and broadcasting of agricultural programmes on community radio stations.  Explore the possibility of using mobile phones in the create feedback mechanism that would shorten the flow of information between farmers, extension workers and researchers.  Improve the rural information centres in the four pilot areas of Kasama.  Improve the process of sending and receiving relevant information between Kasama and Lusaka.  Increase on the number partners in the project.  Continue monitoring the performance and impact of the project, particularly how it is helping to improve the livelihoods of the farmers in the pilot areas.
  14. 14.  Provide computer and Internet connectivity to the Provincial Agricultural Information Officer (PAIO) who is a supervisor to the DAIO so that he or she is regularly updated about the project.9.0 Justification for the extension of the projectThe reasons for the proposal to extend the funding period of the project are as follows: (1) Smallholder farmers in the project area and the rest of the country are not getting feedback on time. (2) The number of smallholder farmers owning mobile phones in Zambia has continued to grow over the years. (3) The project has not adequately developed an information store tool. The current one needs to be fully developed and supported by all officers who are still learning how to use the facility. (4) More awareness on the use of ICTs in NAIS and MAL needs to be created through more seminars and brochures. (5) Established formal linkages between ZARI, NAIS, Extension and Farmers through which information has been exchanged for the benefit of the end users needs to be strengthened. (6) The internet slowness and subsequent breakdown in connectivity hampered the project implementation. (7) The project has finally developed an Internet based platform feedback mechanism using the mobile phone that would improve the flow of information between farmers, researchers, extension officers and NAIS. (8) The project has embarked on the programmes of incorporating other stakeholders through partnerships that would help support and maintain the project in the future.
  15. 15. (9) The project has put in place modalities that would enable timely responses to questions and feedback coming from the farmers and other stakeholders.Through the use of ICTs, NAIS has been able to gather, process, package, store anddisseminate information between research, extension officers, farmers and otherstakeholders – thereby strengthening the linkages between them. Information productshave continued to be collected and delivered online from the original sources to theend- users – both on time and in the appropriate formats.Through this project, NAIS has ensured that agricultural information products areprocessed and stored using appropriate ICTs (for example, CD-ROM, Database, etc).Using ICTs, NAIS members of staff are now be able to research for agriculturalinformation technologies that are or may not be available locally.10.0 Phase II of the project – SMS Internet Based PlatformIn today’s world, information and communication technology (ICT) contributes to manyinnovations. However, and perhaps more importantly, it challenges all of us to think outof the box in order to come up with new, fast and effective ways to get hold of theinformation we need to stabilize, and even enhance, our livelihoods. The SMS systemdeployed by NAIS and developed by SMSize, with support from IICD, is an excellentexample of this. It is an eloquent solution to an age-old problem: namely, getting timelyand accurate information and advice to farmers and extension workers in the rural areasin their own local languages.As mentioned earlier, despite its potential, the agricultural sector in Zambia continues toperform below expectations. One of the factors that has been repeatedly mentioned asresponsible for this dismal performance has been the weak linkages betweenagricultural researchers, extension officers and farmers, as all the groups tend tooperate in relative isolation.However, this could gradually become a thing of the past as Zambian farmers are nowstarting to use their mobile phones to send questions about the day-to-day problemsthey face in carrying out their farming activities to the relevant experts and in turn,receive answers to their questions – in their own local languages - within the shortest
  16. 16. time possible. An undertaking which in the past, could take weeks, or might not berealised at all.10.1 The growth of Zambia’s mobile phone serviceOne sub sector that has grown by leaps and bounds is the mobile phone service. In thelate 1990s when the cell phone ‘craze’ invaded Zambia, having a mobile phone was asign of affluence and sophistication. Today, things have changed with almost every thirdperson you meet on the street ‘brandishing’ a phone. Mobile phone subscriberscurrently number around 5 million (with Airtel Zambia, the country’s leading mobileprovider accounting for 3 million. Airtel is a leading telecommunications mobile operatorservicing over 50 million customers in 22 countries across the Middle East and Africa,creating the world’s first borderless mobile service (dubbed ‘One Network’) across twocontinents. The company operates in all the 72 districts of the country, a feat yet to bematched. MTN, the second largest mobile phone service provider (dubbed the fastestgrowing) is also a force to reckon with, currently expanding its network to rope in moresubscribers while Zamtel in the recent past signed a multi-million dollar contract withZTE of China to expand its GSM network.With financial and technical support from the International Institute of Communicationfor Development (IICD), the department of National Agricultural Information Services(NAIS) has developed an Internet-based platform where farmers are able to use mobilephones and send questions on the most pressing problems they are faced with in theirfarming activities to NAIS and receive appropriate answers within the shortest timepossible.This SMsize platform allows farmers to send their questions on mobile phones in formof SMS messages to the platform and receive answers to their questions.The platform will be accessed by NAIS programme producers and agriculturalspecialists and other identified stakeholders so as to give appropriate answers to thefarmers’ questions.Now that the platform has been finalized and is operational, the system will helpimprove the feedback system between farmers, programme producers and the
  17. 17. agricultural specialists in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and other relevantagricultural institutions in the country.10.2 How the platform worksUsing their mobile phones, farmers need to do the following: Go into the message padand type NAIS, language code leave space, ask your question and send to 3009.Apart from English, farmers will be able to use the service in all the seven major locallanguages namely Bemba, Kaonde, Lunda, Luvale, Lozi, Nyanja and Tonga.The language codes are EN for English, BE for Bemba, KA for Kaonde, LU for Lunda,LV for Luvale, NY for Nyanja, LO for Lozi and TO for Tonga. Codes can be sent eitherin capital letters or small letters.The system is currently only available to Airtel subscribers; however, the system will beavailable to all networks in due course.Each SMS on the system costs 900 Zambian Kwacha (US$ 0.18) and this will reducethe current expenses farmers are incurring to post or send their discussion report formsfor possible solutions to their farming problems.However, this SMS cost of K900 is on the higher side and initiatives by the departmenthave been made to request the Zambia Information and Communications TechnologyAuthority (ZICTA) help waiver this rate by allocating NAIS with a short-code so as toenable more farmers have easy and cheaper access to the platform.Figure 2: Screen shot of the SMS Platform Figure 3: Screen shot of the inbox of the platform
  18. 18. 10.3 Piloting the SMS messaging platformThe platform has been tried out with farmers’ groups in Kasama district of NorthernProvince of Zambia (pilot area) located about 900 Km from Lusaka.Farmers were happy with the new platform and they see it as a tool that will help thembridge the existing disconnect between them and agricultural experts.The SMsize platform was in October 2011, introduced and demonstrated to thePermanent Secretary and all the Directors in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.The idea behind this demonstration was to create awareness and allow policy makers inthe ministry see how it works and so as to have management buy-in.Management was excited with this system and the Permanent Secretary feels that thesystem has been developed at the right time, as his Ministry is currently faced with aserious challenge of having to deal with an extreme shortage of frontline extensionofficers. The Ministry has therefore, promised to support the project by lobbing forcheaper rates for farmers to send their SMSs, which are currently pegged at K900.00(US$ 0.18); a high price which would prove unsustainable for farmers to continuepaying in the long term.The combination of traditional and modern ICT in the NAIS project, specifically radioand SMS messaging, makes for a compelling argument to use both these powerfultechnologies. In so doing, it has served as an inspiring example for farmers andextension workers throughout the country. The information requests that NAIS receivesfrom Zambia’s farmers enables the NAIS radio broadcasters to track and trace thequestions that are coming up regularly, and see clearly what is happening in agricultureand rural development in different parts of the country at any fixed moment in time. Thisis another added benefit of the NAIS SMS-messaging system. An added benefit is that“frequently asked questions” can later be used to determine the themes of the radioprogrammes that NAIS broadcasts, and ultimately contribute to agricultural research.This ICT initiative illustrates how ICT can be easily adapted and fine-tuned to respond tothe needs of the farmer. Therefore, let us learn from NAIS’s experiences - from the
  19. 19. successes and challenges along the way - so that all of us who work in agriculture canbegin using ICT as a catalyst to achieve our own development goals in the agriculturalsector.11.0 Government support is key.Nevertheless, for systems like these to succeed and be sustained they need the supportof government. The Zambian government is therefore in the best position to take thelead in this initiative and drive it forward. We have therefore request ZICTA to considerwaiving the fees for this particular programme so that information is no longer a costfactor for the target groups; small-scale farmers.The beauty of ICT is that it can assist in achieving development goals on anunprecedented scale, quickly and cost-effectively. We therefore urge you to join us inexploring ways in which ICT can further accelerate development in the agriculturesector. It is our fervent hope that decision-makers and policy-makers will come torealize the lasting benefits that ICT-enabled development can bring. Today we get aglimpse of how ICT can be used – simply and effectively – to assist Zambia’s farmers.12.0 ConclusionInformation and communication technologies (ICTs) are a key input for economicdevelopment and growth as they offer opportunities for national and global integrationwhile retaining the identity of our traditional societies.In the agricultural sector, ICTs are beginning to increase the economic and social well-being of some smallholder farmers, individuals and communities.With the introduction and better use of ICTs in the agricultural and fisheries sectors, wewill enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and transparency of the public sector servicedelivery.Studies undertaken by the Ministry under the Department of National AgriculturalInformation Services provide a useful framework for clustering ICTs interventions in theagricultural sector in terms of their relationship with different aspects of the problem ofrural poverty, poor agricultural sector performance, low productivity and low farmincomes.
  20. 20. As a sector, we call for enhanced public private partnership initiatives in promotion ofICTs in all agricultural sub-sectors to address issues of improving knowledge flows andpolicy environment in the sector.This will increase the economic viability of farm enterprises by increasing profitablemarket access and production efficiency, increasing the political empowerment andsocial inclusion of rural communities.Finally, I wish to reiterate that Zambia cannot afford to lag behind in the use of ICTs inagriculture. It is my sincere belief that the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock inZambia will continue to support ICT initiatives aimed at facilitating growth in theagricultural sector.Let us all work together to explore ITC uses in agriculture further and use it to bring uscloser to achieving food security, a greener economy, and economic success.“Investment in agricultural ICTs, is investment in the country’s economy”.References: 1. IICD, project proposal (2006) Strengthening the agricultural information flow and dissemination system of the national Agricultural Information Services in Zambia: The Hague. 2. Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (April 2004) Agriculture and Cooperatives final draft policy, Lusaka: Zambia. 3. Rural information services, (1986) Annual report, Ministry of and Water Development, Lusaka, Zambia. 4. Information and Communication Technologies Act No.15 of 2009 5. The Central Statistics Office of Zambia (2010) 6. Welcome to Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, Researching Soils, Crops and Water in Zambia. http://www.zari.gov.zm 7. Millennium Development Goals http://www.developmentgoals.org/index.html 8. Clare O’Farrell, Pat Norrish and Nigel Scott, (1999) ICTs for Sustainable Livelihoods, http://www.rdg.ac.uk/irdd 9. Simon Batchelor and Clare O’Farrell, (March 2009) Revisiting the “Magic Box” – Guiding principles for ICT interventions. http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y5106e/y5106e05.htm
  21. 21. Contact Information:Names: Darlington KahiluOrganization: National Agricultural Information ServicesAddress: P.O. Box 50698, Lusaka, Zambia.Tel: +260 211 250010 Mobile: +260 977 789723Fax: +260 211 251007Email: dakahilu@yahoo.co.uk or dakahilu@gmail.com