Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) Initiative

Technology provides opportunities to improve the lives of the world's poorest people utilizing tools already in their hands. In Uganda, most people earn their livelihoods and feed their families through agriculture but don't have access to critical information - like which crops to plant when, how to prevent and treat crop diseases, and where they can earn the most for their produce. In close cooperation with several local partners and support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Grameen Foundation is using SMS and voice technologies, available on basic mobile phones, to provide a range of resources to poor farmers in Uganda.

The Community Knowledge Worker project aims to improve information flows and knowledge dissemination for small-holder farmers, and ultimately, give them the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. Grameen Foundation is piloting the project in two regions in Uganda and is identifying, recruiting, and training rural community members to build a distributed network of Community Knowledge Workers, or CKWs. These individuals act as trusted intermediaries in their communities and use mobile phones to provide information services to farmers and also to collect data from villages. Using the information services Grameen Foundation is developing, CKWs will be able to locate agricultural input suppliers, send location specific queries for recommendations about fertilizers, and solicit planting advice for farmers. In partnership with local organizations, the information provided is actionable and tailored to address local needs.

By collecting data from rural communities, CKWs can also help experts identify disease and pest outbreaks before they become a widespread problem. They can also provide companies, governments and NGOs with information to better address rural market needs. Equipped with a mobile phone, CKWs provide vital information that helps farmers increase their incomes and supports the development of products and services designed specifically for rural communities. With a reach deep into the coutryside, Community Knowledge Workers have the potential to impact the lives of small-holder farmers and empower entire communities.
After completing a successful test of concept, Grameen Foundation received a $4.7 million follow-on grant to expand the CKW intitiative.  Over the next four years GF will leverage new and existing partnerships to build out a vast network of 4000 CKWs, providing information and data collection services to a wide range of clients.  Through this initiative, GF will strive to improve the flow of information both to and from rural areas while creating a sustainable CKW business that will continue to operate beyond the life of the project.