In recent years, the Zambia National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) has been receiving an increasing number of questions from farmers concerned about unpredictable weather patterns…
NAIS developed a system, called SMSize to which farmers can send a question via an SMS from a cell phone. The question arrives directly at a server computer at the central office, where the producer researches the answer and sends back the information to the phone of the querying farmer, in the same language as the original request.
‘Instead of taking several weeks, the farmers now get the information within a day or two,’ said Kahilu. ‘We also still use the questions and concerns raised by the farmers to develop material for the radio programmes which will help other farmers facing similar problems.’
Delivering the information to cell phones helps the people living in areas where even radio reception is poor. Cell phones are now so popular that there will be at least one person in every community who owns a phone. Even if the network does not cover that particular village, as soon as someone is in an area with reception, they can send an SMS question and receive an answer that they can then share with the rest of the community.