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)