Director of ICOD, our Ugandan partner, publishes a letter in Uganda's leading newspaper - the Monitor:
ICT is Key to Rural Development
‘…most farmers still lack access to information that is vital like commodity prices, accurate weather forecasts, availability of markets and what to grow when, using which technology…’ Ms Maractho wrote in a well-thought out article in Daily Monitor of June 29 about the importance of ICT in empowering rural farmers.
I agree with Ms Maractho that the government and related institutions have failed farmers, especially in equipping them with the skills relevant in their lives. And with NAADS performance in the spotlight, it’s time to explore other avenues of enabling farmers to benefit from their enterprises.
When farmers lack access to information relevant in their daily lives, it increases their chances of being exploited by middlemen. Due to the collapse of cooperative marketing boards, less than 5 per cent of rural farmers directly sell their produce to national or international markets, and lack access to information on crops/animal diseases, prevention of such diseases and weather forecasts.
The year 2011 is beckoning on the wings of promises of heaven and earth! Recently, an aspiring political leader spoke at a rural NGO’s launch of an ICT centre and he had good news for the folks in attendance (who included my parents)… “You should always vote people like us who have brought this service to you. In addition to this, I am giving so-and-so village a Shs300 million feeder road so that you can stop complaining.”
Everyone clapped and the political leader smiled. Was he smiling because the masses had fallen for his fiction, or was it for the “service” that he had brought them? Maybe both! False promises to offer essential services may earn a politician votes but they keep rural folks marred in poverty. Access to information about one’s life and environment is vital to changing them. As Ms Maractho put it, ICT is key to empowering farmers and must be adopted in rural development.
It is important to establish ICT centres with the aim to help Selected farmer’s group members and to train a network of people living with Aids in computer and Internet use. The centres will be able to collect and locally relay information that the community group has requested from the Internet. With approaches like this, I am certain that the rural population can be empowered and can find their way out of poverty.
Michael M. Ahabwe,