Saturday, 8 December 2012

Google helped me harvest a bumper crop

Is the internet your lifeline, or your nightmare? People across Africa have been sharing their stories with BBC News.


Not long ago I had a problem on my half-acre potato farm in rural Kenya.

My healthy crop of potatoes was suddenly dying one after the other, much to the puzzlement of our local agriculture officer and me.
A search on Google for potato pests and diseases finally identified the problem - ants! They had infested the farm to suck the sap of the potato stems and finishing them of one after the other.
The solution suggested was simple and environmentally friendly - sprinkle wood ash at the base of the stems.
After a few days of this treatment the ants disappeared and I was able to harvest a bumper crop two months later.

Hidden bonus
An unexpected bonus to this story was that I was able to sell my crop at a good price to a local restaurant in the nearby town of Eldoret.
This customer came to me from the initial Google search that had the contacts of the Kenya Potato Growers' Association, who connected me to the customer.
Going online also enabled me to get high quality seed potatoes and technical advice from the Kenya potato research station at Tigoni.

Intrigued by the unique way in which the internet and mobile phone had added value and knowledge to my enterprise, I was challenged to share my experience with my fellow small scale farmers.
They are much better than me at farming - all they lack is a digital know-how.

The question was: how best to reach and interact with a farming community of 10,000 residents in an area of 50 km radius?
The idea of Leo network of notice boards came to me. In my rural community, it is about making use of simple wooden notice boards, with print outs of text messages, e-mails, photos illustrations and articles, all talking of local issues.

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