News / Economy

    Farming Tips Reach Developing World Via Cell Phone

    Devices deliver video information to hard-to-reach places

    Developing world farmers receive tips on improving crop yields by watching how-to videos on their mobile phones.
    Developing world farmers receive tips on improving crop yields by watching how-to videos on their mobile phones.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Mobile phones are the latest weapon in the fight against hunger and poverty. The devices provide a new way to deliver information to developing world farmers in hard-to-reach places.

    A group at the University of Illinois has produced several videos that demonstrate simple, low-cost ways to improve the lives of people in the developing world. One video shows farmers how to make a natural insecticide out of seeds from the neem tree.

    Spreading the word

    “There's been a dramatic revolution in the way that we can share information," says the University of Illinois’ Barry Pittendrigh. "And that's come about both through the Internet and through the dramatic increase in the use of cell phones, especially in developing nations.”

    Cell - or mobile - phones are everywhere in the developing world and they are becoming increasingly sophisticated

    “We discovered that many farmers had cell phones that would play video clips," says Purdue University crop scientist Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer. "We thought, ‘OK, can we use those cell phones as a way to communicate this visual information?’”

    That visual information includes a video of how to close specially-designed storage bags so that they are airtight and protect crops from insect pests.

    "Closing the bags is something that, if you see it, you will understand it very quickly, and most people do. But explaining it in words is quite difficult,” says Lowenberg-DeBoer, adding that one of the most remarkable things about mobile phone videos is how fast they can spread.

    His team conducted an experiment where they loaded the video on seven phones and watched what happened.

    “In one month, the video had spread to 118 people in 50 different villages," says Lowenberg-DeBoer. "And we think that this is just incredible impact from a very modest investment.”

    Seeing is understanding

    Farmers pass videos from phone to phone with Bluetooth wireless technology.

    Those videos can be a real advantage when trying to reach farmers with little formal education, says Tolulope Agunbiade, with the University of Illinois.

    “Getting the information across to them is a little difficult because some of them cannot read. But with the animations, it's easy to get the information across to them.”

    The Illinois team can use the same computer animation in different regions by simply re-recording the narration in the local language. However, the Purdue team takes a different approach.

    A Nod to 'Nollywood'

    “We film them locally," says Lowenberg-DeBoer. "And when people see the local landscape, the way they build their houses, the way they build their granaries, they think, ‘Oh, this was made just for us.’”

    He says the rough production values take their cue from Nigeria’s popular low-budget 'Nollywood' films.

    “That’s what people in that audience are expecting and, culturally, is perhaps more appropriate.”

    With either approach, the point of mobile phone videos is the same, says Illinois’ Tolulope Agunbiade.

    “It will get the information into the hands of the people that really need it, which are the farmers."

    It’s a high-tech way to pass on low-tech solutions.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United Statesi
    X
    July 28, 2016 2:16 AM
    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9098
    JPY
    USD
    105.75
    GBP
    USD
    0.7631
    CAD
    USD
    1.3189
    INR
    USD
    67.209

    Rates may not be current.