Farmers to get advice on inputs via phone

Farmers will soon receive information on availability of fertiliser and seeds as well as improved farming techniques through their mobile phones.

The ministry of Agriculture will equip agricultural extension officers with laptops and cell phones to provide the information.

The move is also aimed at attracting the youth into farming.

Speaking during the launch of a Sh50 million project dubbed “E-Extension”, Agriculture permanent secretary Romano Kiome said the ministry had acquired 624 extension kits and had instructed agricultural officers to set up desks at the local market centres.

“Application of the E-extension has the potential to increase the output of Kenyan farmers, most of who are small-scale,” the PS said at the function at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute headquarters in Nairobi last week.

It is estimated that 65 per cent of Kenyan farmers use mobile phones, Dr Kiome said, adding that this had guided the ministry’s decision to use phones to fill the gap created by inadequate staff who serve as the ministry’s point of contact with farmers.

By using the technology, farmers will not have to physically see an extension officer to get the advice they need.

“This idea focuses on creating an electronic and interactive bridge where farmers and fishers meet and transact,” the PS said.

There are 5,600 extension agricultural officers compared to the 8,000 required on the field.

“The percentage of household owning a computer or mobile phone stands at 3.6 per cent and 63.2 per cent respectively,” Dr Kiome said quoting from the 2009 National Population and Housing Census report.Kenya is renowned world over for the success of the mobile money transfer technology, and the ministry hopes this new communication system will catch on just as well.

“Sending a simple text message from a mobile phone, for instance, on the availability of subsidised fertiliser at the National Cereals and Produce Board depots would go a long way in ensuring farmers get inputs in time,” Dr Kiome explained.

The ministry plans to equip 1,450 information desks in wards with the kits, further train 3,000 extension staff on information sourcing from the E-extension and also train 720,000 farmers on how to access the information.

Source: Daily Nation-April 7, 2013, http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Farmers-to-get-advice-on–inputs-via-phone-says-PS/-/1056/174129

By LILLIAN ONYANGO

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