This post is part of a new series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!
For farmers all over the world, there is one tool that is even more important than the seeds, soil, and water needed to cultivate food for the table and to sell at the market—knowledge. From five-day weather forecasts and new techniques in planting to up-to-date information on current market prices, the more farmers know the more they can benefit.
In India, major companies like Tata Group, Thomson Reuters Group, and Nokia have set up subscription services for farmers that send farmers daily updates via SMS on weather and crop prices. Similar voice-based programs leave daily, automated voicemails. The Indian Institute of Technology’s aAQUA (“almost All Questions Answered”), allows farmers to text in questions about a how to deal with a certain pest or properly fertilize a crop. Kheti, a system operated by Sheffield Hallam University in England, even allows farmers to send in pictures of problems taken on camera phone (see also Texting on the Farm: Mobile Technology Provides Farmers with Useful Information in India).
In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank is helping women in some of the most remote, rural areas benefit from knowledge-sharing with the help of “village phones.” Women can purchase or lease cell phones from the bank to provide telecommunication services to their entire village and earn a profit. By renting out their cell phone services, the women can improve their incomes, while giving local farmers access to weather reports, bank accounts, and market information.
In Zambia, Mobile Transactions, a financial services company for the “unbanked,” allows customers to use their phones like an ATM card, giving the estimated 80 percent of Zambians who don’t have bank accounts the ability to make purchases and receive payment electronically. The phones also give them the ability to start building a credit history, which can make getting loans easier in the future (see also A Sustainable Calling Plan).
These examples are only just the beginning. We know there are countless other projects and innovations that are using information-sharing technology to scale-up innovations and improve farmer livelihoods all over the world. Do you know what they are?
Tell Nourishing the Planet what works and have your answers featured on the blog. Email me at Dnierenberg@Worldwatch.org or tweet your response to @WorldWatchAg
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