In early 2009 the Grameen Foundation went to Uganda with the idea of creating a fluid and effective two way communication channel between rural farmers and the world of agricultural experts, development agencies, traders and commercial players. Through this loop, rural small holder farmers would be given livelihood saving agricultural information generated by the experts and the big players would keep informed on conditions on the farm from adoption of best practices to available produce for sale. Grameen has now published its Community Knowledge Worker pilot report to share some of the lessons learned on what it takes to sustainably build and expand such a network of information intermediaries.
Mobile-Based Livelihood Services In Africa: Pilots And Early Deployments is a paper by Jonathan Donner, a researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research India, presented at a Conference on Development and Information Technologies. Mobile Phones and Internet in Latin America and Africa: What benefits for the most disadvantaged? last October.
The paper describes a collection of initiatives delivering support via mobile phones to small enterprises, small farms, and the self-employed. Using a review of 26 examples of such services currently operational in Africa, the analysis identifies five functions of mobile livelihood services: Mediated Agricultural Extension, Market Information, Virtual Marketplaces, Financial Services, and Direct Livelihood Support. It discusses the current reliance of such systems on the SMS channel, and considers their role in supporting vs. transforming existing market structures.
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