ICTs have become essential for delivering agricultural information to rural farmers. Specially developed software collates and distributes market data to farmers’ cell phones. Radio broadcasts detail the symptoms and treatment for crop diseases. Videos demonstrate pest control techniques. And web pages provide satellite imagery and analyses of local soil and vegetation. The technology provides the NGOs, research institutes and international organisations that have taken over extension services from underfunded government departments with the means to reach remote producers quickly and efficiently.
IN THIS ISSUE
'Extension workers need to be part of a team that includes policy makers, researchers and communities.' Myra Wopereis-Pura, director of knowledge at the FARA.
'ICTs bring agricultural extension and advisory services closer to farmers who often live far from the main information sources.' Karin Nichterlein, research officer at the FAO Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension.
Technology retains talent
With little access to formal extension services, a rural Zambian community set up an internet connection to develop local agriculture, education and energy facilities. The community is now using local radio to encourage other villages to do the same.
A local language website gathers content from a wide range of sources and presents the information to Madagascan farmers and extension officers in a variety of formats.
Input from experts
Agro-dealers in several African nations use cell phones to network with other traders and advisors, and keep farmers updated on the latest agricultural techniques.
Animations developed to be viewed on cell phones provide a unique way of delivering agricultural advice, as the short videos can be adapted for a variety of languages.
ICT Update (http://ictupdate.cta.int) is a bimonthly printed bulletin, web magazine, and accompanying email newsletter focusing on the use of information and communication technologies in agriculture in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. It is published in English and French, by CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation) in Wageningen in the Netherlands.