A simple mobile phone is helping Simon Obwoya bring new opportunities to a community that has faced the brunt of Uganda’s brutal civil war. Obwoya lives in Lalogi subcounty in northern Uganda, a region that is home to thousands of people who have been displaced by a decades-long insurgency. People have recently started returning to their land and learning how to farm and take care of their families again.
Obwoya, a smallholder farmer himself and a Grameen Foundation Community Knowledge Worker, travels around his district, mostly on foot, giving fellow farmers vital information. He offers advice on treating diseased crops and sick animals, the best crops to plant and when to plant them based on the weather forecast, and market prices at various locations. Obwoya is intimately familiar with the challenges farmers face and uses his network to promote the program and register new members.
Obwoya and his family are lucky to have a few disconnected acres of land and two cows. While he might seem to be one of the better-off farmers in his village, his family eats just two meals per day, has no electricity and cooks over a wood fire in a smoky cooking hut.
Community Knowledge Workers like Obwoya are playing a vital role in introducing a new way to get relevant, local information to farmers, while simultaneously collecting real-time data through their phones for various agencies looking to help the poor. The important service Community Knowledge Workers provide their communities is a constant reminder that technology alone is not enough. People who are empowered with information to help their neighbors improve their livelihoods while strengthening local institutions make the difference.