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Bhutan launches mobile infosystem for farmers

13 January 2010

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The launch of the advanced mobile-based information system last week will boost the local farmers income, by helping them find the right place to sell their farm produce in Bhutan. Providing access to information in four languages, it reads out to the caller a range of prices.

A farmer’s greatest concern after every harvest is whether their returns would be in proportion to the hard work they put in on the field.

Image credits: Kuensel/ Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho launches most advanced market information system of its kind in the world

Determining which auction yard to take their produce to can be a tricky venture as an auction yard in one dzongkhag could offer a better deal than the other.

With the recent launch of mobile phone-based market information system (MIS) in Gelephu, farmers can be assured of finding the right place to sell their farm produce, as this facility enables farmers to keep abreast of the latest market prices for farm produces like potatoes.

“If a farmer can be given up to date market prices for his produce, he or she is in a much better position to make arrangements with middlemen, and to control the marketing of his products,” the agriculture minister, Lyonpo (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said.

“If a farmer can’t access this information, he’s at the mercy of middlemen, who may exploit the situation, and pay lower prices.”

The new technology offered by B-Mobile promises farmers across the country access to going market rates prices of vegetables in four languages, Dzongkha, Sharchopkha, Lhotshamkha and English 24/7.

The farmers can simply dial 2009 on their B-mobile phone and press 1 for Dzongkha, 2 for Sharchop, 3 for English and 4 for Lhotsham. The system will further allow them to dial 1 for Phuentsholing auction prices, 2 for Samdrupjongkhar, 3 for Gelephu, 4 for Samtse and 5 for Thimphu.

The latest prices for each of the main commodities for that market will then be read out to the caller, giving a range of low and high or average prices.
“Around 80% of the farmers, who send produce to market, are able to receive the MIS signal,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho.

“Our pre-launch test of the system showed that 87 %of areas tested had clear signal, and that message was understood and appreciated by almost 100% of the farmers who received it,” he said.

Farmers welcomed the agriculture ministry’s initiative. “So far, we’ve been relying on BBS radio to learn about potato prices in Phuentsholing and Gelephu,” said a farmer from Ura, Bumthang.

“But their information was irregular, which made it difficult for farmers to stay abreast with up-to-date prices on vegetable,” said Pema, 30, a potato grower from Ura. “We’re looking forward to reaping the benefits of this new technology.”

Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho said that the new technology, called the interactive voice technology (IVR) acquired by Bhutan Telecom, was probably the most advanced market information system of its kind in the world today.

Source : Kuensel

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