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A few tweaks in the CKW intervention can deliver more impact to farmers

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Agriculture ICT4D M4D Uganda
Posted on February 16, 2011

Lydia Namubiru is Partnership Analyst, Community Knowledge Worker program, at Grameen Foundation Uganda.

Samuel Olara’s chickens were getting weak and sleepy. He feared they had caught something that would kill them and he didn’t know how to save them. Fortunately, he knew someone who might know. He walked 2 kms to the local CKWs’ home to consult on chicken diseases and their treatments. The CKW in turn consulted his phone and advise Olara to treat his chicken with soda ash. They quickly recovered and were doing well three weeks later when a Grameen Founda­tion team visited his home in Pabbo.

Information can indeed positively change outcomes for many a farmer. However, sometimes, the information package needs to be deeper and more varied than a single remedy or other tip. Micheal Nyeko’s experience illustrates one rea­son why. He is a regular client to the local CKW. He says that he often asks for market prices. Unfortunately, he can’t al­ways put this information to good use. “Sometimes you learn that the price is so much better in the next district. It may even be double but you can’t afford to go there. Can your organization work with organizations that provide transport so they can connect us to those markets?” Nyeko asked the Grameen Foundation staff that visited Pabbo in January. He certainly makes a sound suggestion on how to remedy the situation; albeit one that requires significant investment. The CKW team also has an idea of a technology solution that might help overcome the farmer’s problem while bypassing the logistical requirements of sending out transporters to help farmers. Once the planned mobile market place applica­tion is deployed, we will investigate how much it pulls bulk buyers to rural farm-gates and in the process saves farmers the need to transport produce to physical markets.

Sometimes it takes less than a whole new technical solution to provide information that is complete enough to be actionable for the farmer. Take Alice Aya, an elderly farmer still in Pabbo. She and her farmer group learnt of the op­portunity to sell grain directly to the World Food Program (WFP) from their CKW and have agreed to work together to raise the quantities required by the warehouses. They have since raised 80 kgs of maize amongst themselves, well below the 3000kgs minimum the Gulu warehouse will store but a good start nonetheless. Unfortunately, they have now run out of storage space. “Can you build us some stores here in the villages where we can keep the produce while we raise the big quantities?,” the elderly woman also asked the Grameen Foundation team. Such stores as she suggests in fact already exist or are being planned. Based on her feedback, the CKW team will be publishing a comprehensive directory of WFP rural satellite collection and bulking cen­ters so that farmers like Aya will know where to store and/or minimally process their bulk purchase as they prepare to engage the bigger warehouses.

The valuable insights farm visits like these give us confirm and affirm the need to stay in touch with them. As we move forward with the CKW project, we hope to even further map gaps in the intervention and information it provides as well as those in the broader agricultural system that need to be filled. We are hopeful that this work will go a long way in delivering impact to the farmer.

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