USAID TechCon Photos Copyright Noah Berger / 2014
USAID TechCon Photos Copyright Noah Berger / 2014

A group of Uganda innovators has developed a web and mobile based app meant to help farmers exchange information with extension officers in their local languages for free.

Named m-Omulimisa, the platform leverages human mediation and text messaging to create a mobile and web-based consultation space.

Farmers can use their phones to ask questions in languages that they understand, and receive understandable feedback from extension officers in the region via text messages.

Agricultural extension services play a key role in improving the livelihoods of farming communities through provision of expert assistance, disseminating of information and technologies; as well as helping to translate scientific research into practice.

The services are however constrained by an array of challenges including very low extension worker to farmer ratio (1:3000), a huge disconnect between agricultural research and extension and underdeveloped infrastructure that limits extension officers from meeting rural farmers in person.

The app will use the universal presence of mobile phones to improve farmers’ access to extension services as well as improve the efficiency and effectiveness of extension services.

The use of local languages will further make the platform highly compatible with Uganda’s heterogeneous lingual landscape of over 56 indigenous languages.

How it works
Farmers register via text messages when they use the platform for the first time where they type their language specific keyword that suggests which language they use. The app is designed in a way that every language is assigned a specific keyword.

To ask questions, a farmer will begin a text message with a language specific keyword, then type their questions in the text message, and send them to a short code (8228).

Upon sending the query, the text messages are instantly delivered to a web-based platform or the system’s mobile App. On the platform or on the App, registered extension officers can check and respond directly to the questions. The answer(s) to farmers’ questions will be instantly sent back to farmers’ phones.

All registered farmers also receive location-based information of weather, markets, and farming regularly from extension officers.

The Mobile version is currently at version 2 and is already available for free download on Google Play Store.