Sustainable Agriculture designates systems in which the farmers realize the goal of efficient production of safe, high quality agricultural products, in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of farmers, their employees and local communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.
Embracing the three pillars of (1) profit over the long term (2) protection of our nation’s land, air and water and (3) quality of life for farmers and their communities; all using ICT in knowledge sharing, information management and indigenous farming methods are driving factors of CELAC, Collecting and Exchange of Local Agriculture Project.
In an attempt to achieve this, the project has used several methods, today, majoring on the mobile phone because of the vast advantages. Mobile phones are the most affordable forms of ICT even to a rural farmer. This can partially be attributed to the wide areal coverage, ongoing telecom war that has resulted in low cost of internet, telephone calls and even mobile phones sold on promotion. At least every home in Uganda has a mobile phone. More, mobile phones play a multi-functional role in sharing information. This can be by SMS, phone conferencing and telephone calls
Sharing some quotes related to mobile phone usage from CELAC Project beneficiaries:
Evelyn Ogwang, a Farmer in Apac district in Nothern Uganda says, “When I joined CELAC, “They introduced to us how to keep ducks. Before… we were, keeping bees and rearing a few local chickens. Now we have added on keeping ducks and even some farmers planting matooke. Which had never existed before. The mobile phone helped us acquire direct market in Kampala through market information from CELAC, we can now do group selling.”
Apac district farmers say that because of improved information on production and marketing they were able to eliminate the middle men -- the market prices for their produce went up. Simsim and sun flower can now be sold in Kampala.
Ngonzi Daisy from Masaka says that when our animals are sick, we are able to call farmers from other areas to help us. We also receive messages from CELAC and this has helped us get better pest and disease control methods.
Mrs. Mpungu from Masaka says that she was able to raise turkeys which she had never tried because of the mobile phone. Whenever the turkeys get sick, we would call Gwiko from Budaka and he would always give a solution.
These are just some few examples out of many more. The mobile phone has been embraced by the rural communities more positively than expected. As a project, we introduced use of mobile phones to access valuable information like diseases and pests control, market and even better farming methods. Currently majority of the farmers use mobile phones for information sharing. We send text messages on pest and disease control and when they are disease outbreaks so as the farmers can take more care. When a farmer meets a challenge, she/he uses massages to consult fellow farmers.
For those who cannot read text messages, the project has engaged a number of farmers to help teach their neighbors how to read. As a result of the project, rural farmers have increased their production. Some use their children who are now in school to read and interpret text messages.
To get the best from ICT methods, there is need for innovation. Before, famers were using mobile phones for voice calls and conversations. Now they have been trained to use them in a more productive way. They can now make calls to search for market, look for disease and pest control methods and farmer to farmer advice. Some have learnt to copy the text messages from their telephones, write them in books and during forums they share them out even to those with no access to mobile phones.