Congratulations to Jimmie Ssena for being recognized as a finalist of the VNI Service Awards for his work with rural farmers using FrontlineSMS! Since its founding in 1997, the Nakaseke Telecentre has served as a knowledge portal for poor rural farmers in their district, working to use ICTs “for rural development, reduction of poverty and... a better livelihood of the rural poor.”
About 86% of Uganda’s population live in rural areas and rely on subsistence farming, and in the Nakaseke district alone, 1.5 hours from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, over 95% of the community are exclusively subsistence farmers. Most of the cash crop grown in Nakaseke is sold in Kampala.
Lack of agricultural information is one of the critical factors preventing higher yields in communities like Nakaseke. For farmers, getting the right information at the right time can make a huge difference. Without it, farmers experience poor yields and low production, sometimes leaving a number of families with no alternative but to buy food stuffs from retail shops at higher prices so that they can feed their families. Many children go without schools, as their parents don’t have the money to pay school fees.
Jimmie’s project, which sends updates and reliable information to individual farmers' mobile phones using FrontlineSMS, has supported many farmers to increase their productivity. Jimmie Ssena brought FrontlineSMS to the Nakaseke Telecentre to send crucial information to local farmers concerning developments in the sector, disease outbreak, information on improved seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, weather changes, and the current market prices for produce. Jimmie’s work not only helps farmers turn out greater yields, but also cuts out the middleman exploitation of farmers by making them aware of fair market prices. Jimmie works with other national and civil society organizations to obtain information, and repackages it for consumption by a local audience. They run call-in and question-and-answer services, including a radio show, and offer training and other IT services.
Agriculture is one of the most strongly-represented sectors among FrontlineSMS users. For Jimmie, the simplicity of the platform is key.
The VNI Service Awards, sponsored by Cisco, recognize individuals and organizations that have created innovative solutions in “connecting the unconnected.” This video highlights how Jimmie’s work is certainly connecting people who would otherwise be left in the dark about critical information supporting their livelihood. Jimmie’s project demonstrates how powerful SMS can be for agriculture training as the technology is cheap, durable, and capable of delivering asynchronous, localized information. By using tools already found in farmers’ pockets, Jimmie hopes to expand his project using FrontlineSMS to "continue bringing about development and social empowerment among the rural farming community."
This blog post is based on Jimmie’s application to the VNI awards, which you can read here, and is published with his kind permission.