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African farmers to get Geospatial info on their phones

Nairobi, Kenya— A pilot project that uses mobile phones to alert farmers in remote regions to where they can buy drought-tolerant beans has been launched in Kenya – just one of a set of pilot projects using mobile and geospatial technologies to improve communication of important information to farmers across Africa.

In the first step of the system researchers confirm where dealers are stocking drought-tolerant beans, mapping their locations. Scientists then use mobile phone services to send the information to government extension workers who have second-generation mobile phones, common in Africa. They can then relay the information to farmers in person or via their phones.

The project is expected to end in September with feedback from participating farmers. Another project, taking place in Kisumu and Homa Bay on the edge of Lake Victoria in western Kenya, uses mobile phones to provide farmers and government workers with information about the soil.

The soil sample is given a fertility rating which is then digitally mapped and accessed by mobile phone or the Internet, using Google Map Maker.

The project is being carried out with the help of the non-profit company Farm Input Promotions Africa, the Uganda branch of the Grameen Foundation bank and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.