If you were to spend any amount of time in Pakistan, you might think you were in the heart of a very rich country, especially when you saw how many people have mobile phones. Regardless of economic class, nearly everyone has mobile tech; individuals who work as farmers are no exception.
But the farmers live in very isolated areas that are tough to reach and, until recently, were very hard places with which to communicate. Additionally, the farmers are at risk of being struck by major natural disasters or attacked by militants in the area. Although the picture is bleak, there are some silver linings.
The first is the rapidly improved mobile technology and service in the area. USAID noticed this improvement and partnered with the local government as well as Telenor, a mobile network communicator to launch a program to benefit farmers. And now, there’s an app for that.
The pilot program will reach peach and potato farmers as well as individuals who own fisheries. The venture seeks to increase farmer’s incomes, improve market access and bolster knowledge and the ability to fight crop disease. The app will do so through various methods.
The primary function of the app will be to send alerts filled with advice and tips on how to increase efficiency and quality of food production to mobile phones. There is also a service that users can access that has voice files with similar instructions and additional tips. The latter will provide an excellent service, since a large part of the country is illiterate and would therefore be unable to access the data in any other way.
On the business side, farmers will receive data about market prices and consumer trends to ensure that they are increasing profits. There are also more technical bits of advice, such as state-of-the-art farming practices designed to increase yield and help fight crop diseases. Additionally, there are advanced weather programs on the app to help farmers decide when to plant, irrigate and harvest crops.
The pilot has been met with overwhelmingly positive feedback. Over 90 percent of participants said the alerts were “well-timed and useful,” while three quarters of the participants have adopted the farming practices recommended by the app.
The app also has a feedback section that will be incredibly useful, although it might take longer to see results. Users can log activity and practices through the app, which specialists can analyze in order to get a picture of what challenges farmers face. From there, solutions can be made. And, in a country where agriculture employs 44 percent of the population, it might be just what they needed.
– Andrew Rywak