Smartphone Software to Help Rice Farmers

An international agriculture NGO is preparing to roll out a nationwide project in partnership with computer-chip maker Intel whereby more than 25,000 farmers will be able to receive real-time advice on farming methods via a smartphone app.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) piloted the scheme last week in Kandal province, where farmers visited their fields and entered data into a smartphone. After analyzing the information, the mobile software returned advice on how farming methods could be improved to provide a higher yield of better-quality crops.

The project will initially be introduced in Kandal, Kampot, Takeo, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces with the support of 100 agricultural outreach workers, and if successful, it will be expanded to the rest of the country.

Meng Sakphouseth, IFAD’s country presence officer in Cambodia, said the response in Kandal was positive, with the smartphone app providing answers on everything from the type of soil farmers should use to how to cure crop diseases.

IFAD will initially provide smartphones to the outreach workers, also called extension workers, who will be trained to deal with farmers’ queries.

“Farmers, businesspeople and local agriculture officials from the rice sector will be selected and trained to be agricultural extension workers,” Mr. Sakphouseth said.

“Initially, we will buy the phones for them, but later, they will need to buy for themselves using funds received from membership fees,” he said, explaining that farmers who wish to be part of the scheme will be required to pay $10 per year.

Nou Kom, a rice farmer from Prey Veng province, said the fee was a small price to pay for a service that could help him eliminate pests that significantly drive down his crop yields.

“The main problem is that snails and insects eat the crop and make the dark-green paddy become yellow. So we need to treat the crop, but very few people know how, and there is very limited extension activity by the state and private companies,” Mr. Kom said.

“This kind of technology could reduce the time for solving the problem and provide a bigger yield.”

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