Although research into agricultural development is extensive, and markets continually evolve, this information doesn’t often reach the farmers who could benefit most from it.
In remote areas of many developing countries, lack of access to telecommunications means that farmers either struggle to keep up-to-date market and agronomic information, or they are forced to spend time and money in travelling to access this information, taking away from the already scarce time they have to work on the farm.
Wireless Reach is a scheme that aims to bridge communications gaps such as these, by bringing wireless technology to developing communities around the world. The project, run by international telecommunications company Qualcomm, not only connects rural communities to the outside world but also offers a source of livelihood for those involved.
One of Wireless Reach’s latest projects has been to partner with the Grameen Foundation to determine the feasibility of introducing wireless phones in Indonesia.
The idea is simple and has already been successful in several other countries. A micro-loan is offered to a local person whose community has no telephone connection. This person then uses the loan to acquire a village phone kit and service plan, taking on the role of Village Phone Operator (VPO). The rest of the community can then purchase minutes from the VPO: they benefit from access to affordable telecoms service, whilst the VPO is able to manage a sustainable ICT business.
Thanks to initiatives like this, more farmers are accessing information about weather, crops and pest control from their own remote villages, so that they can make better-informed farming decisions. Furthermore, being kept up to date with market information allows farmers to receive accurate pricing information and market their crops to buyers.