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Soon young people and farmers will have a ‘one-stop-shop’ for their information needs at Busia Community Library.
The library’s service is one of three new services funded by EIFL’s Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) in Kenya. The service aims to provide access to information about agricultural technology and markets for farm produce. The main beneficiaries of the service will be farmers in Busia County and young people who want to start careers in agribusiness or artisanship.
Busia is a busy market town on the western border between Kenya and Uganda. The primary economic activities in Busia County are cash crop and subsistence farming, fish farming, trade in farm produce and artisanship.
‘The majority of people are involved in subsistence farming, but struggle to find information to improve their livelihoods,’ said Mrs Maria Wafula, head of Busia Community Library.
‘We will create a special space for farmers and young people – a one-stop-shop for information – where they can research the Internet, read e-books and e-journals on farming and farm technology, and find market prices and other important information.’
Background to ‘Facilitating Agricultural Technology and Marketing through ICT in Busia County’
Busia, in Western Kenya, is a busy market town on the border between Kenya and Uganda. One of only two crossing points into Uganda, Busia is a major trading centre for both countries. Most people in Busia and Busia County earn their living as farmers, producing maize, beans, cassava, sweet potato and sugarcane and raising poultry. Located near Lake Victoria, the county is also home to many fishing villages and fish farmers. For many years after Kenya’s independence in 1963, Busia County did not have a library, and farmers struggled to access basic information about the weather, market prices, farming methods, crop and livestock diseases and technology. These challenges motivated Busia Community Library and the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) to develop an information service aimed at promoting the livelihoods of farmers and young people in the county.
The new service
The new service will establish a space in Busia Community Library that will be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for agri-business. It will have free access to six computers, a web portal and an online database of useful agricultural information, contacts, resources and opportunities for farmers and young people. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts and librarians will provide training and support for users.
In addition, the service will Smart phones to improve communication between farmers and markets. Five market agents will be given Smart phones for communicating information from their regions to the database and to farmers, using the internet, text messages and phone calls.
Busia Community Library, which is coordinated by a local NGO, Family Support Services (FASSCO), will work closely with local government and agricultural agencies who will provide information and contacts with national policy makers, farmers and young people. One such agency is CABE (Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship),
a Kenyan-based NGO, which aims to enhance the livelihoods of smallholder and youth agro-entrepreneurs. CABE will create the web-portal for farmers and the database of information about opportunities, suppliers and services.
Maria’s Libraries, an NGO that aims to establish a network of libraries across Kenya, will liaise with Busia Community Library to improve the library’s facilities and technology, and provide overall coordination. Another key partner is Okhasia Farm. The farm owners have invested in establishment of the library and will create a repository of information on organic farming for the service.