April 2, 2014 by presa
By Judith Nzyoka
Africa is the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world. The number of mobile phone subscribers has grown by 18% per year for the past five years in Sub-Saharan Africa, while the number of internet users in Africa grew 9 times faster than in Europe over the period 2003-2013. These developments provide a whole new group of people with access to modern communication technology and information services. At the same time, there is a rapidly growing population to feed, while ongoing climate change creates new and often irregular patterns in weather and water conditions.
By analyzing user needs, IWMI, eLEAF, DLV Plant and their local partners, have implemented an interactive SMS service for providing field specific information and advice in the local languages in Nubaria (Egypt), Gash Delta (Sudan) and Arata Chufa (Ethiopia). By sending simple one-character codes, farmers can request an update of crop growth and water use efficiency relative to their peers. The users can also notify the system of timing and amount of irrigation, and the water balance of each plot is monitored as the basis of on-demand daily irrigation advice.
In addition, online data portals enable local extension advisors to monitor the status of all individual registered fields with weekly maps of nine different crop water parameters for each field. Based on observed differences between farms, or even within a single field, extension advisors can identify anomalies and contact the relevant farmer. The main source of data feeding both the web and SMS information service is high-resolution satellite imagery, with one new image acquired every week.
This demonstrates how technology and agricultural information can be integrated to inform agricultural extension services. Additionally, the use of ICT and geodata provides new opportunities for rural farmers to access agricultural information for improving crop production; farmer income and resource use efficiency, and can address specific problems of farmers and provide information as required by farmers.
Read more about the SMS services and online portal here.
Source: Simons, G (March 10, 2014). New SMS service connects farmers to weather and water information in Agriculture and Ecosystems Blogs, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems