SMS service provides extra bargaining power to local farmers

The “mFarmer SMS” service provides Ugandan farmers with weather reports and up-to-date market information. It facilitates communication between producers, buyers, processors and service providers.

The market town of Nakaseke lies 75 kilometres north of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. It is old-fashioned and rural, part of the ancient kingdom of Buganda. Farming is the main economic activity in the surrounding district and crops include coffee, maize, fruit and vegetables. Nakaseke is also the site of one of Uganda’s six innovative Community Multimedia Centres (CMCs). article full
A farmer in Nakeseke, Uganda

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The CMCs are part of a global initiative by UNESCO to promote community empowerment and bridge the digital divide in the developing world by supporting community radio and providing access to the Internet. By opening the door to the global knowledge society, CMCs help poorer people in the developing world and countries in transition to use information and communication technologies to improve their lives. Typically, they combine community radio in local languages with the provision of basic ICT facilities.

The CMC in Nakaseke serves 45,000 people, most of whom are involved in farming. It uses community radio and SMS messaging to provide agricultural information to local farmers. The scheme, which makes use of skills acquired from Farm Radio International’s e-learning programmes, contributes to the improvement of traditional practices and the development of better methods of farming.

Nakaseke CMC recently launched the “mFarmer SMS Service”, a new initiative to provide farmers with weather reports and up-to-date market information about changes in prices for agricultural commodities. mFarmer facilitates communication between producers, buyers, processors and service providers, giving farmers extra bargaining power and helping to prevent them from being exploited by unscrupulous middlemen.

mFarmer uses FrontlineSMS, a free and open source application, to manage, send and receive mobile phone messages. The system can be easily customised to meet local needs, affording a quick and efficient means of communicating with rural communities about anything from price changes to emergency situations.

mFarmer’s success in Nakaseke is partly attributable to the high mobile phone penetration in the local area. It is also simple: just a mobile phone with a sim card, a computer and some air time. The system is browser based and designed to run on Windows, Mac and Linux. It does not even require Internet access. By the end of 2013, it should reach 600 farmers in the Nakaseke district.

The project will be presented at the ICT4Ag Conference, which will take place from November 4 – 8, 2013 in Kigali (Rwanda).

Published on Oct 31st 2013 in