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Lobby group want cost of internet lowered

An international organization which has been working to promote agriculture in the country wants the government to lower internet costs so as to help farmer’s access educational information aimed to boost productivity.

A United States based organization, Scientific Animations without Borders Organization (SAWBO) has been training on farmers’ ways of increasing productivity by disseminating educational videos to farmers through various social media platforms.

The organization calls upon the government to lower internet cost and increase network coverage to enable many farmers in the country access the information through their mobile phones.

The lobby further underscores the need to ease accessibility to smart mobile phones to allow as many Kenyans as possible to access information that could change their lives.

The Head of SAWBO Kenya Network James Kataru observed that the organization, which brings together agricultural experts, makes short videos of between five to seven minutes which are translated to local dialects and then sent to registered farmers.

Speaking after he met a section of farmers in Kambirwa area of Murang’a County on Monday, Kataru noted that use of social media platforms has helped the organization to reach many farmers who employ the disseminated information to boost agricultural productivity.

The videos are disseminated through social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook while farmers without smartphones get the information either through Bluetooth or flash disks.

Kataru noted that the videos contained diverse information aimed at guiding and enlightening farmers to deal with challenges they faced in their farms and help in handling them in a cost effective manner.

“We work with over 10, 000 farmers drawn from all counties except those in the North Eastern region. The organization has also brought in volunteers from local communities who help in translating the videos to local dialects,” he stated.

Kataru added that through the videos, farmers also share successful stories to encourage others to use best and cheap ways to protect their crops and animals from diseases.

“In our training, we focus more on reducing the cost of production for farmers while increasing production. We show farmers how to produce their own compost and farmyard manure instead of relying on fertilizers and making pesticides from locally available herbs. There are also videos on value addition,” he further explained.

Barry Pittendrigh, a professor and one of the researchers under SAWBO said their content is available in about 130 countries.

Barry said the organization collaborates with numerous groups around the world and was working with some television stations, government and non-government agencies in Kenya.

“One of the exciting things about this programme is taking global experts’ knowledge and then putting it in a format that’s understandable by everyone,” he said.

He said a programme they undertook in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria a few years back reached over 12.5 million people and helped them make savings of up to USD 90 million.

“Every year, millions of educational needs go unfulfilled by international development agencies. Our animations are there to fill the gap by sharing knowledge for free,” he noted.

Swaleh Abdalla, farmer from Murang’a, stated that videos helped him to venture in growing soya beans and ground nuts.

“The two crops are not common in Murang’a but after I received videos from SAWBO, I set a portion of my farm and planted soya beans and ground nuts and they did well. The videos have also helped me to deal with fall army worms which had affected my maize crop,” he added.

By Bernard Munyao

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