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 Friday, September 28, 2012
Two projects, one in Kenya and one in Burkina Faso, show that female farmers have better access to ICTs and are using them to improve their livelihoods. However, there is still a gender digital divide, and some profound problems are preventing women from benefiting from ICTs.

Margaret Wanjiku Mwangi has been a regular user of the Ng’arua Maarifa ICT Centre in the rural county of Laikipia in Kenya since it was inaugurated seven years ago. She has acquired computer skills free of charge and regularly borrows books and magazines to discover new ideas to improve yield productivity. For example, she learnt how to preserve various vegetable seeds for planting to enhance food security. It was also at this rural ICT Centre, an initiative of the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), that she came up with the idea of making a kitchen garden to grow vegetables in the dry season, and to make fruit juices at home to sell at special occasions and social gatherings.

Mwangi has also attended market access trainings at the ICT Centre, where she has learnt to use her mobile phone and the internet to check market prices. ‘Whenever my crops are ready,’ she says, ‘I use my mobile phone to check market prices in major towns so that I can learn about the current market situation. I share the information with neighbours, and we are no longer exploited by middle men’.

Bett Kipsang’, field officer at the Ng’arua Maarifa Centre says: “We have initiated training sessions targeting all the community members and specifically women. During these sessions, we introduce them to initiatives about online marketing skills, for example, where we train farmers to check market prices from a web-based portal using the internet and mobile phones”.

The portal is called Sokopepe, which loosely translated into Swahili means ‘online market’. It was developed by ALIN, for use by local farmers to access market information via the Short Message Service (SMS). The internet portal has been customized to receive SMS and give feedback on the prices of commodities as inquired by the farmers and buyers. The initiative enables farmers to upload their offers online and receive market information from different market centers in order to make informed decisions on where to sell their produce. This marketing system has helped rural women find prices and also discover the location of prospective buyers‘.

(Source: ICT Update)