Nakaseke Community Telecentre in Uganda has deployed a project called Mfarmer SMS Service to encourage an interactive two way feedback communication to its main focus groups, to the farmers, Buyers/Agro-processors and extension service providers. FrontlineSMS is a new innovation technology which is free and open source application used to manage, send and receive SMS. The project is designed to help farmers to access agricultural Market price information, and weather information through their mobile phones.
The technology is made so simple to enable every organization/individuals in that it is very flexible to all sorts of services depending on what you intend to communicate to the community; Agricultural Market price information, Weather, Natural calamities, and special Alerts.
Impact: The project is targeting to reach 600 farmers by the end of 2013, last year 34 Farmers were trained in the application of the service and among is Haji Siraje Muwanga (+256392301450), a resident of Kiziba in Nakaseke District. Muwanga lives predominately on farming to support his family of two wives and children. He grows Bananas, Maize, Coffee and beans. He also rears cattle and keeps poultry to supplement his income and household food requirements. He says that some of the challenges he has encountered in the past include poor storage facilities and poor prices for his produce especially during the bumper harvest.
He says, “our challenge is that, most farmers sell to middlemen who utilize this opportunity to buy our produce at low prices. In most cases we don’t know if there is a change in prices and that is why we fall prey to the middlemen!”
Muwanga adds that “Last season I planted 300 kilograms of beans which I bought at Uganda shillings 800 per kilo costing me Shillings 240,000. (USD 96) I harvested 2800kg.”
“As I was struggling to find the best market and my children were about go back to school, I was invited to attend a one week training at Nakaseke Telecentre where I was introduced to the SMS service. This has helped me to link up with buyers. I received just a simple message from the Telecentre showing that someone was looking for beans. I replied and later I was contacted by Mr Senkuba Ronald (+256788691902.) who bought 2500kg at cost of 1300/= each. Thus earning 3,250,000/=(USD1300)”, narrates a delighted Muwanga.
Muwanga terms this opportunity a God-sent as he has managed to get enough money to “take my children back to School” Muwanga has three children, two of whom are taking vocational training courses in computer repair and maintenance and Motor engineering and the youngest completed his O’Levels last year,2012.
In conclusion he states, “I have decided to keep some 300kg of the grains for re-planting in this coming season. As a farmer, I am happy to see that such a service has come at the right time when most farmers are in need of accessing agricultural price information especially on maize, beans and Coffee and my appeal to my fellow farmers is to use such opportunities because they are beneficial.
The project was supported by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa within the framework of resolutions made during the African Knowledge Network workshop held on 22-23 November, 2011 at UNECA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is coordinated by Mr. Balaba Peter of Nakaseke Telecentre who has been contracted by ECA for a short dedicated period of time.
The resolutions recognized that the growth and penetration of ICTs, particularly mobile phones in Africa is attracting both solution providers and development actors in the development of community-based applications in supporting areas ranging from financial services and government service delivery to support the socio-economic sectors in agriculture, health, education and commerce, etc.
Hence, there was a need for telecentres to adopt new and crosscutting-edge applications to serve their communities better and to ensure sustainability. The Mfarmer SMS project at Nakaseke has been stimulated by the fact that mobile phone penetration within the area like many other African villages is high and most households have access to mobile phones.