Tag Archives: agriculture

Day One

10 Jul

I arrived in Nairobi after an eight and a half hour flight and a two and half hour queue for a visa. It was an interesting place journey. Big groups of teenagers heading out to take part in development projects and a noticeably large contingent of journalists, spending the night in Nairobi before heading out to the east to report from the refugee camps. Fascinating. Although after a day of exploring the city today, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad that it takes such a tragedy, such a disaster for the world media to descend. Yet again it makes me question the picture of Kenya and east Africa which we have painted for us in the UK.

Anyway, I’ve seen some of the sights- parliament, the national museam, Victory park. And some less conventional- ambulances dodging the traffic by crossing the middle of the highway and driving toward ongoing traffic, riding in a bus which mounted the pavement for 200 metres to dodge yet more traffic, and a group of men pushing a huge bus to get it jumpstarted…

Tomorrow I have an appointment to meet with the producer of a leading Agricultural radio programme to find out how he uses SMS technologies to communicate with his listeners. My first interview… lots of things to remember currently going round and round in my head. Then I head back to Jomo Kenyatta International to head to the west of the country. It’s all go!

More soon!..

Inequality?

20 Jun
My last blog post makes access to online and the availability of social media sound as if we’re all on an equal footing, we’re all involved in this big global discussion. But perhaps that’s not quite the case.
 
I was inspired by a tweet from Guardian Development today. They were also live tweeting from Africa Gathering in London today. They tweeted
 
“We must act to ensure digital access & literacy doesn’t become a new source of inequality @claremelamed#aglondon
 
Are mobile phones considered a luxury? Or a practical tool? Or can they be both? In the UK they are widely regarded as a tool I suppose. But this does not strip the iPhone of it’s allure.
 
Whilst I was in Ethiopia last year, I noticed that many people who owned a mobile phone, had more than one. My host mother had three. Why, was unbeknown to me. But she enjoyed having three mobile phones. Three more than some people that she knew I suspect. Is this inequality?
 
What about the huge regional disparities between the frequency of mobile connections?
 
Or do these inequalities just mean nothing in the grand scheme of things? The M-Ubuntu Project has brought mobile phones into the classroom in two South African schools.
 
Whilst in Kenya I hope to meet the thinkers behind M-Farm They have created a system which uses SMS to allow farmers to access accurate market prices whilst selling their crops. Mobile phones for good? ICT4D? I hope to find out.
 
I wonder whether mobile phones may be a complication and a solution to the problem of inequality. Or maybe this is just progress and development and continuity towards the future.
 

Poverty Matters

4 May

The Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog is worth a look if you haven’t come across it already. Today, especially so. Read Mohamed Béavogui’s post for the 4th May 2011 here. 

I don’t think that Mr Béavogui’s argument is a new one. It’s certainly one I’ve come across before and really without it, I wouldn’t have a documentary in the pipeline. He says that African farmers have the potential to solve the ‘food crisis’ that we could face in the future. Further than this, that they hold the key to the further development of the continent, and that we must see them as entrepreneurs, as business men and women.

But, he adds, to ensure success, they need support and investment by their governments in things like access to technology, access by roads. Improved electricity and reliable water resources are vital too. Keep an eye on goings on at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town this week.

I was struck by the attention drawn to national supply chains and the changing demands emerging from African centres, instead of demand from foreign importers. Last week I read an interesting article courtesy of the African Research Institute. Written by a Kenyan smallholder, it detailed how he manages his farm and how he produces vegetables, largely soya beans for export rather than for local sale. With Europe putting pressure on consumers to buy local and avoid ‘food miles’, will smallholders start looking for business that little bit closer to home?

Then again, we’re talking big business. World food prices are at a record high, and strong horticultural exporters are reaping the benefits. Is it really realistic for producers to ignore the temptuous international marketplace?

Anyway, The Guardian Poverty Matters blog. Take a look.

Connecting Ethiopia

17 Apr

http://www.ethiotube.net/nvlab/player/player.swf?config=http://www.ethiotube.net/nvlab/econfig.php?key=745740d4e8c771e011e1

Ethiotube: Linking Ethiopian farming communities to export markets

Connections are being made between producers in Africa and the international market all over the continent. So it’s probably not suprising that things are moving fast in Ethiopia too, like the video shows. Forging these connections is important when 85% of Ethiopians rely on small scale, ‘back yard’ style agriculture for their income.

It’s especially significant considering the other side of agriculture in the country. Something that that Guardian article you can read by clicking on the link above talks about. Agriculture is also big business in Ethiopia. The government have sold huge swathes of land to national and foreign investors looking to grow food cheaply. Berhanu Kebede (Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UK) writes…

“The key is to achieve balance. Commercial farms tend to become hubs that link smallholders to value chains and help spread knowledge and best practice to other farms. So the debate is not about big versus small. We will continue to support commercially viable small farms, which offer increased food supplies, jobs and incomes in both the farm and non-farm economy. This will help Ethiopia achieve wider economic development and prosperity.”

In Ethiopia, mobile technology and agirculture have yet to collide in a big way. I hope to keep looking at the reasons behind this. But you can certainly see from the video that there’s great potential for their use in developing agriculture in the country.

Which leads me to me and an update on my research. I’m currently eagerly searching for ICT4D projects in Ethiopia, and also concentrating on discerning what exactly the situation is there now in regards to NGOs administering support. Still coming across fascinating projects every day via Twitter and a host of new followee’s. Just a shame they’re not in Ethiopia!

Apologies for the video being a little bit melodramatic. Nice to see some shots of Addis Ababa though..which actually, while I’m at it, is not an ancient city like the video sort-of suggests. Addis Ababa is little over one hundred years old. The name itself means ‘New Flower’ in Amharic

…Not that I wish to be pedantic!

Why agriculture?

17 Apr

linkTV: Meeting Food Needs – Solutions from Africa

70% of the population of Sub-Sahran Africa are employed in agriculture. 80% of Uganda’s population of 31 million are involved in agriculture and as you can see from this list, agriculture in Ethiopia provides a whole host of valuable exports. The Gates Foundation has lots of similar facts and figures, all of which emphasise how important agirculture is to the economies of many developing countries, in particular African countries.

In accordance with an African Union programme, many African governments are investing more money into strengthening agriculture. But there is still work to be done.

There’s the problem of waste shown in linkTV’s video above. There’s also the plight of the ‘Middleman’ who take a share of the money that would otherwise go to the food producers. There are cultural aspects too. In Ethiopia I saw farmers driving huge herds of skinny cows along the road. I was told that these farmers see the size of their herd as more valuable than the productivity of the individual cow. Even though a smaller herd of better nourished, productive cows would really be far more cost efficient.

These are some of the reasons why agriculture is being targeted by the mobile market. As Danielle Nierenberg says huge numbers of farmers have access to mobile phones. If information can be distributed via them and farmers can connect to each other using them it could have global implications.

MobileActive.org: Mobile phones in rural development and agriculture