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Zambian Minister of Agriculture: "Use More ICT in Agriculture"

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Jan 30 2012, Zambia [ZM], Agriculture, Economic Development

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) should be used more to enhance agricultural development in Zambia. This was stated by the Zambian Minister of Agriculture Emmanuel Chenda at the opening of the IICD-supported agricultural information text messaging platform.

“ICT should be used to more easily communication between farmers and agricultural stakeholders.,” said Zambian Minister of Agriculture Emmanuel Chenda. He then officially launched an SMS system that can be used by farmers and farming extension workers to directly communicate with a farming radio station in English and local languages.

The radio station was set up by the National Agricultural Information Services together with IICD. The SMS platform will be accessed by NAIS agriculture information officers who are hosting farmer radio shows in various local languages and agricultural specialists and other identified stakeholders to give appropriate answers to the farmers’ questions. In an interview with IICD in April 2011, one of the radio hosts explained why this system will be useful for farmers. “Before, if farmers wanted to provide feedback, they had to have an extension worker fill out a form and send it to NAIS in Lusaka. With the new setup farmers can do it themselves.”

Farmers can send a text message to the number 3009, then type in their language (for instance EN for English or BE for Bemba) and their question. The system is currently only available for Airtel subscribers but will be available to all networks soon.

A challenge for the system is the high price of text messages. “The SMS costs K900 is on the higher side,” stated the Minister of Agriculture. “The ministry has made a request to the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority  (ZICTA) to help waiver this rate.”

Farmers watch as an extension officer of Zambian organisation NAIS explains how they can send an SMS to a farmer radio show.         

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