Making ICT work for Agriculture: Using the mobile phone as learning tool for rural farming communities in Uganda


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Presented as part of the seminar: Can mobile phones improve agricultural productivity, resilience and food security?

29th May 2012, 08.30 - 12.30

Hörsalen, Sida, Valhallavägen 199, Stockholm

Daniel Ninsiima, Mobile Specialist, L3F Uganda

Traditional Agricultural Extension Services (AES) intended to serve smallholder farmers in Uganda and Sub-Saharan Africa at large have failed to make significant impacts (Jones, 2007), due partly to the lack of knowledge-sharing practices to disseminate timely agricultural information.. A key problem has been inadequate access to information due to weak linkages and interactions between agricultural research, extension and education, including, 1) the lack of knowledge and information articulating best practices and addressing interconnected socio-economic development issues such as agriculture, education, health, culture and the environment; and 2) a deficiency of relevant research information presented in easy to understand ways and localized to the needs and language of farmers. However, the growing ubiquity of mobile phones presents an excellent opportunity to put timely agriculture information into the hands of small holder farmers which will ultimately make them more productive and increase their income levels.

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Making ICT work for Agriculture: Using the mobile phone as learning tool for rural farming communities in Uganda

  1. 1. MAKING ICT WORK FOR AGRICULTURE: USING THE MOBILE PHONE AS LEARNINGTOOL FOR RURAL FARMING COMMUNITIES IN UGANDA Daniel, Ninsiima Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo P.O Box 7062, Kampala Uganda Email: Tel: +256712035192,
  2. 2. ICT for Agriculture
  3. 3. ABOUT THE L3F INITIATIVE Lifelong Learning for Farmers (L3 Farmers) demonstrates Commom Wealth of Learnings (COL) ability to partner with communities and organisations, and make effective use of ICTs to facilitate learning for development Aims at helpig rural communities find appropriate technology- based open and distance education to improve their livelihoods The programme is a response to a critical need: the wealth of information resulting from agricultural research and development often fails to travel the last mile to the villages of the developing world where it is most needed
  5. 5. EXTENSION CHALLENGES IN UGANDA highly understaffed with one extension educator required to serve up to46,000 farmers and yet poorly paid Lack of relevant research information presented in an easy to understand manner and localized to the needs of local small holder farmers Lack of knowledge and information articulating best practices and addressing interconnected socio-economic development issues including agriculture, education, health, culture and the environment.
  6. 6. Diverse enterprises on the same piece of land 6
  7. 7. ICT FOR AGRICULTUREUganda’s communications sector is one of the fastest growing inAfrica. As in the rest of the continent, this is largely due to therapid expansion of mobile telephony.Mobile telephone subscribers rose well over 14 million by theend of 2011— up from more than 9.4 million in December 2009 —which is about one-third of the country’s population.
  8. 8. Uganda Fixed & Mobile Subscriptions & Penetration, 2010/11Source: UCC , Post and Telecommunications Annual Market Review2010/2011
  10. 10. M-LEARNING FOR AGRICULTURE EXTENSIONIn 2009 COL conducted an information needs asessmentsurvey to find out the sources of agriculture extensioninformation, means of access and several otherParameters
  11. 11. ACCESS TO EXTENSION INFORMATION 80 70 60 50Percentage (%) Access 40 No Access 30 20 10 0 Soil & water seed & planting Pest & disease Post harvest Product Record keeping Leadership & conservation materials management handling marketing & financial team work management Kind of Information
  12. 12. SOURCES OF AGRICULTURE INFORMATIONSource of information Response %Radio 136 65.07Television 1 0.48Mobile phones 5 2.39News papers 11 5.26Other written materials 6 2.87Word of mouth 50 23.92Internet 0 0.00
  13. 13. INFORMATION NEEDSSoil fertility technologies 20Market Information 35Fertilizers (% yes) 11Soil and water technologies 10Crop management technologies 14Crop variety technologies 9Livestock improved breeds 1
  14. 14. OBJECTIVES OF THE SERVICE innovativly use information and communication technology systems especially the mobile phone to complement the conventional agricultural extension system; Use the mobile phone to enable free flow of agriculturally related information and knowledge within and between farmers and extension workers using cost effective communication technologies in a sound sustaunabe social enterprise; and  Translate available research content into local dialects and disseminate information to farmers in languages they can understand
  15. 15. SHORT MESSAGING SERVICE (SMS)“Use neem tree leaves to keep your grain safe: Dry the leaves, grind them andmix with the grain in the bags that you want to store”“Use tobacco to control spidermites in tomatoes and borer in cabbage. Grindthe leaves, mix with ash and soap water. Let it stay for a night, sift andSpray”
  16. 16. COSTS OF THE SERVICE Retrieving a message through a Seected Farmers’ questions keyword or sending questions “256751688459  L3f ndahinga emondi to the system through sms costs zayenda kurabya zome kiraretwaki” 220/= shs ($ 0.08) and and for meaning what causes my potatoes to each sms 50/= shs ($0.02) is wilt at a time when they start credited to us flowering and another asks “ “256785037138 L3F uganda okubyara emondi mu layini kirayongyera The farmer gets instant advice ahamusharyro?” meaning does which saves his crops and gets planting my potatoes in lines a good yield. They will now increase yeild? need accurate information on the changing market prices so they can get a good price. The farmer will always come back since seasons keep changing and his information needs keep changing as well
  17. 17. CHALLENGES OF SMS/ RELEVANCE OF VOICE Limitation to 160 characaties for text based Mesages Very many are illitrate and cannot retrieve text mesages from their phones Farmers are more comfortable with voice than text
  19. 19. IN THE FARMERS’ OWN WORDS“We have more than 46,000 farmers in our sub-county but we have onlyone extension officer to serve all of them. Yet, farmers have diverseenterprises which an extension officer may not handle even if he reachedthem.” Apollo Kaboroga of Kacerere village in Bufundi Sub-county saysHe continues to say, “through the mobile phone, i have been able to getmore income from my potatoes since the information provided helps us tolink directly with buyers in Kampala. I can now sell a bag of potatoes for asmuch as 80,000 thousand shillings compared to the paltry 50,000 orsometimes 40,000 shs middlemen paid by taking advantage of ourignorance of market prices
  20. 20. About the system Benefited 1,000 famers since 2009  The voice messaging Content sent twice a week application has been tested with over 500 farmers and Farmers ask questions in the first month of its anytime anywhere operation, we recieved over 100 user calls Content retrieved automatically using  Call costs 180-240 Ughs keywords SMS system sustians itself through a share revenue agreement with the SMS company
  21. 21. SCALING UP THE SERVICE/CHALLENGES Investing in more equipment to handle more calls at a time since the current GSM device can only handle one call at a time and clogs up the system when more users are trying to access the service. An alternative power source is needed to have the system available 24/7 even when there is a power outage Promoting the service through available media options like radio and print to attract usage and make more farmers aware of the service and how they can access it. This will attract more traffic to the service and create a more sustainable venture
  22. 22. CONTINUED.... Training is needed in professional audio and text content development. There is also need to link with researchers and scientists so they can provide feedback to farmer queries as soon as they come in. Intergration of the service in research systems and government extension systems. This can be done through the national agricultural research organisation (NARO) and national agricultural advisory services (NAADS) organisations that are responsible for research and extension in Uganda. Bringing telecom companies on board to agree on a revenue share agreement as means of sustaining the initiative. Telecom companies could provide a waiver to farmers making calls to the service to make it more affordable