John Gushit, a science researcher at Nigeria’s University of Jos, has developed a way to help farmers reduce the risk of exposure to chemicals in the field using cell phones.
Gushit learned that farmers were not using protective gear while applying chemicals to crops; they weren’t washing out containers, discarded chemicals improperly and in some cases, Fulani herdsmen were bringing their cows to graze on areas where herbicides had been applied only hours earlier.
“Some of the cows behaved strangely and even died later,” Gushit said, according to a blog at All Africa. “Fighting between groups broke out because of this.”
When a chemical accident almost cost Gushit his own eye, he secured a loan and with the help of colleagues, developed mobile technology to show farmers how to properly use pesticides. “I didn’t want these farmers to learn the hard way,” he said.
He used e-learning methods practiced at the university for his program but some of the farmers could only communicate in their own local dialect.
Then he read in Spore Magazine about the i-Cow program, created by a Kenyan, and adapted it to help farmers correctly use pesticides and herbicides.
i-Cow is a text message and voice-based mobile phone app for small-scale dairy farmers in Kenya that gives tips on cow breeding, animal nutrition, milk production efficiency and gestation.
In the first phase of the project, Gushit’s program has been used by 150 farmers in areas where it can take six hours to reach a health clinic.
Almost half said they would like to use the program every day, and 17 percent said the system was not needed, the report says. Gushit said in the All Africa report he believes this technology has given farmers hope. He plans to scale up the program and make it easier for farmers to use.