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CTA. 2004. Malawi: Farmwise. ICT Update Issue 21. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Permanent link to cite or share this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57694
External link to download this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/91589
Bessie Nyirenda describes how a database system, an online input calculator, and email are helping women farmers in Malawi to improve agricultural production. We may not have yet reached the stage where a computer is present in every rural village,
This is precisely what the Farmwise project set out to do in the rural village of Mwandama in Zomba district, Malawi. With the GenARDIS award, the project developed a computer database system with a web interface and email facility to help women farmers to determine what they can expect to harvest from their land, which crops they can grow given the soil type and fertility, and what inputs they should use. The project collected information about the women and their land as inputs for the database. The staff received training in using the system and agricultural extension workers were present to advise the women on the amount and type of seeds and fertilizers they would need, and when to plant, fertilize and weed. The most vulnerable members of the community received free inputs, and brochures were available for all to take home. In principle, the database could be accessed using the web interface on the Internet. During implementation, however, it was decided not to connect the database (in order to protect the privacy of farmers) and put on the web only a farm input calculator. Requests for advice from farmers were passed on by email to the advisers in the agricultural extension office. Email [firstname.lastname@example.org] was also used to communicate with Radio 1, a station of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, popularly known as ´Farmers Radio´. Since most farmers in the village listen to this radio station, it was natural that the project should use it to publicize the Farmwise project. The station´s programme presenters used the online input calculator to answer questions from farmers about the types and amounts of inputs they required, and taught farmers with Internet access how to use it. The women were given alerts of the radio programmes to listen to and the times they were being aired. The women farmers of Mwandama have, on average, 0.2 hectares of land. In the past, when they planted local maize varieties using seed selected from the previous season or bought from local markets, and without using fertilizers, they were able to produce four or five 50-kg bags of maize. As a result of the project, their productivity has more than doubled, and they are now producing about 10-15 bags of maize each. None of the women are contemplating selling their produce yet - they are happy just to have enough for their families to eat. In the words of one of the women, ´This year we will not be lining up in queues to receive free maize, we are liberated from the food crisis circle´. mailto:email@example.com Bessie Nyirenda is managing director of a target=_new href=http://www.clcom.net Computerland Limited, an Internet service provider in Malawi.
- CTA ICT Update