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Another interesting article has reached my in-box – this time about rural application of the internet in Africa…

Farmers will need access to up-to-the-minute information to adapt effectively to climate change, experts say, but in rural Zambia few have access to the Internet.

A southern African communication group hopes to change that by rolling out rural “telecentres” that will act as one-stop shops for communications services in rural areas, offering Internet access, photocopying, credit for mobile phones and other services.

Zambia, like many southern African nations, is seeing increasing prolonged dry seasons and short periods of heavy rainfall, changes believed linked to climate shifts. With most of the country’s population reliant on small-scale farming for a living, the changes are forcing farmers to rethink the way they operate.

Whether it’s used to look up drought-resistant crops, determine which crops to plant after each harvest to boost nutrients in the soil, or figure out how to retain water in the soil to prepare for dry spells, the Internet has the potential to provide local communities with help in changing practices. It also allows two-way communication, letting farmers ask questions and pass on their own techniques, rather than simply absorbing information.

Reliable information about current market prices and availability, machinery, fertiliser, seed, and hardy crop varieties also can help farmers in rural areas boost production, plan ahead and consider their options, he said.

Courtesy of SATNET

The telecentre project focuses on providing services including internet access, photocopying, radios, mobile phone and credit sales and phone charging to rural communities, as well as offering brochures promoting advice about farming practises.

Altogether, more than 30 telecentres are now operating around the country, each with an average of more than 800 users.

Calvin Kaleyi, a spokesman for the Zambia National Farmers Union, said that since only the a minority of people in the country have access to the internet – about 6 percent – information centres are hugely beneficial to local communities for finding out about a wide range of agricultural issues, including how to adapt to climate change.

Click here to view the full, original article.

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