Saturday 17 December 2011

“I use my phone to communicate with other people especially on market access.” Ms. Night Juliet

Ms. Night Juliet
Poultry Farmer
Kasese District

I rare Chicken and I help other poultry farmers and potential poultry farmers by providing them with information on better poultry rearing, market access, etc through trainings.

Many people around have learnt from me how to handle poultry when they are affected by a diseases, breeding, market access which has encouraged many people especially women embrace poultry business.

Although the radio is important, most of the times I use my phone to communicate with other people especially on market access. There are also important programs on local FM radio stations which have helped people learn a lot about the poultry business.

In the poultry keeping business, the market for poultry products is still limited which is a very big challenge to the poultry farmers in Kasese District.

Also see a video of Rural Broadcasting for Youth Entrepreneurship Development Conducted by ToroDev in partnership with Stem Van Afrika

Friday 9 December 2011

“Voice of Toro radio already has two radio programs that deal with farmers programs, one is aired out in the morning and the other in the afternoon.” Bruce Katuramu.

Kabarole District

We always endeavor to tell our listeners about our advertisement rates to ensure effective use of our FM Radio station for small scale business development.

The prices for the advertisements are negotiable, depending on the business type and the nature of the clients.

To ensure high standards for our FM radio broadcasting, we always conduct on job training for our staff. We also reward our staff based on professional broadcasting.

To promote Rural Broadcasting for Entrepreneurship Development in Rwenzori Region, Voice of Toro radio already has two radio programs that deal with farmers programs one is aired out in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

VOT staffs are also facilitated to investigate issues affecting the rural communities. However, radio programs for small scale entrepreneurship development and capacity building for radio staff is still limited therefore, NGOs like ToroDev should intervene and sponsor different entrepreneurial programs on our radio stations and also offer more capacity building workshops for radio staff.

Political radio programs are also important for Entrepreneurship Development because they are so popular and people lean on them so much compared to other radio programs.

Friday 2 December 2011

“NGO’s like ToroDev should help to teach and train our radio staff especially those who deal with entrepreneurship programs…” Nyakahuma Patrick.

Mr. Nyakahuma Patrick.
Manager Better FM
Kabarole District

We face many challenges in Rural Broadcasting for Entrepreneurship Development ranging from the limited staff training and facilitation for entrepreneurship broadcasting.

When selecting our workers the experiences is want we consider first and then the qualification, the managing director and program director are highly qualified in journalism and presenters are just entertainers with limited skills in journalism.

Nyakahuma Patrick
The Research department is too demanding and facilitation is lacking. Our staffs are not fully facilitated to the level that they wish because the source of income is still lacking.

We have an arrangement for all those who wish to do on-job training. NGO’s like ToroDev should help to teach and train our radio staff especially those who deal with entrepreneurship programs on FM radio stations.

Building a forum for Rwenzori FM Radio staff is a very welcome idea because it will help in information and knowledge sharing but it should be organized or initiated by a neutral person or organization not by one of the radio stations to reduce any bias that may arise as a result of competition.
Despite all the problems faced, we put in efforts to do research on issues that affect the community and broadcast them. We can also arrange radio programs for community benefits at no cost, small scale entrepreneurs can also be catered for by this arrangement.

Thursday 10 November 2011

“In our news bulletin we have specific time for business news…” Thembo Fred

Thembo Fred
Station Manager
Kasese Guide Radio
Kasese District

There has been a lot of improvement on our packaging and we have set categories for our charges and we consider our clients according to the business they are involved in.

We have established a program basically targeting all the business people and we have a business show every Saturday that is focusing on the business people. The program is called Edakacu ebusibuzi.

Tembo Fred
We invite local farmers to join the staff especially we invite the learned people to come on air and teach other who are not learned. The educated are from universities and institutions with degrees in agriculture and business. These people sit and discuss with the other farmers who are not learned to share ideas and knowledge.

In our news bulletin we have specific time for business news where we inform business people and farmers of different prices for different products and other needful information related to business.

We also let other entrepreneurs and farmers to call in and share their ideas; they ask different questions concerning the topic of the day.

We always go to the field with our recorders and record the farmers and other entrepreneurs /business people and get their voices to help others hear from the experienced individuals.

We meet so many challenges while reaching out to the rural small scale entrepreneurs because some of them expect us to solve their problems hence misinterpreting the role of the media.

Friday 21 October 2011

July 2010 - July 2011 report from Projects, Research and Development Department

The department has achieved alot over the year, it has been the focal department in the implementation of  “The Broadcasting for Entreprenuership Development in the Rwenzori region” project which is supported by both Stem Van Afrika (SvA) and Toro Development Network (ToroDev). The projects goal is to ensure that rural small scale entreprenuers (women and youth) utilise the services of the widely accessed channel of communication (FM radio’s) in Rwenzori region to easily access markets for their produce and services, access to improved seeds and access to appropriate technology among others for better socio-economic development.

The department successfully oversaw the carrying out of survey across the Rwenzori region districts in 2010 which was assesing the needs of rural small scale entreprenuers from rural FM radio stations. The survey has helped rural FM radio journalists, managers and proprietors appreciate the involvement of radio listeners in the programming and designing of radio programmes.

Solomon Akugizibwe (right) monitoring a participants project

To help in fundraising, public relations and networking, the department achieved alot in developing and strenthening ToroDev social media in 2011. It started a facebook page  where latest articles, videos, audio about ToroDev published on online media are posted to keep all stakeholders abreast with the organisations activities. In addition to the existing multimedia website, the organisation has also set up a blog to keep, strengthen and build a strong loyal internet community.

Since the organisation is transforming into a research institution, a youtube page has also been created  so that research work doesnt only stop at being documented in text, for lobbying and advocacy purposes especially in the fields of ICTs and Entreprenuership policies, text researches will be complemented with video documentaries which will be skillfully designed and disseminated to the loyal ToroDev online communities.

In this finacial year (2011/2012), the department is planning to have a fully functional video editing section to strengthen ToroDev advocacy and lobbying  capacity in the country.

The department staff will also receive more on-job trainings in research to ensure that the organisations activities and research work are published on on-line academic journals to influence policies even at the international levels based on empirical evidence from the region.

The year 2010/2011 has been a great year for the organisation because it has led to the establishment of a strong network of all FM radio journalists on all the nine (9) Rwenzori region based FM radio stations and triggered the creation of eight (8) rural radio listenership clubs across the Rwenzori region districts. Continued sharing between rural FM radio journalists and rural small scale entreprenuers which was extremely very limited before the implementation of rural broadcasting for entreprenuership development in Rwenzori region has helped trigger healthy information sharing for improvement of grassroot household incomes.

Solomon Akugizibwe - Head of projects, research and development department

Monday 17 October 2011

“NGOs should also help to mobilize resources so that our staff can be fully facilitated as they go to do research in the remotest communities...” Victor Kahuma

Pastor Victor Kahuma
Radio manager - Kyenjojo Development radio (KDR) 
Kyenjojo District

Different staff of KDR attended ToroDev workshops and trainings and those who attended were able to come and train those who were unable to attend.

All that was achieved during the training were discussed about and put in practice, our radio program packaging has improved, our data capturing is collected deeper and we have two programs which run on our radio station to help farmers improve on their skills.

Now most of our staff knows what entrepreneurs need and how to broadcast their needs on radio like information on costs of advertisements on air.

KDR has also tried to do on job training for its staff for better broadcasting; we are still facing problems of limited resources for research especially in the most rural communities where access is in most cases difficult. 

We call NGOS like Toro Dev to call for more training for our staff for better Entrepreneurship development broadcasting.

NGOs should also help to mobilize resources so that our staff can be fully facilitated as they go to do research in the remotest communities where accessibility is difficult.

For better community development broadcasting in the Rwenzori Region, there is need for a radio staff forum to ensure better information and knowledge sharing and access.

Monday 3 October 2011

Radio stations have not done much to help rural farmers

Mr. Katwire Mukama
Fish Keeper and Herbal medicine farmer
Kamwenge District

Radio stations are so useful but they haven’t done much to help rural farmers improve their skills and Businesses. I attended the workshops that were organized by ToroDev on Rural FM radio broadcasting for entrepreneurship development and a lot of issues and useful ideas were discussed that were so vital to both the farmers and the radio staff.

Mr. Katwire Mukama (right)

Reasons as to why most farmers do not fully participate on programming and design is because most of them were started to achieve certain political or religious goals since most of them are either owned by politicians or religious institutions.

They focus on political and religious issues other than programs which will help the rural business people market their products and hence improve on their incomes.

ToroDev should talk to the proprietors of radio stations so that more issues concerning the farmers and entrepreneurs can be discussed deeper to enable radio stations change their broadcasting for the benefit of small scale rural farmers.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Why this blog? And how can you participate!

ToroDev’s blog ( was created in 2011 to keep, strengthen and build a strong loyal internet community for entreprenuership development, advocacy, participation in budgetary processes and democracy especially in the rural areas of Uganda.

Entreprenuership Training in Kamwenge
 The organisation has since July 2010 been implementing a project on Rural FM Radio Broadcasting for Entreprenuership Development in the seven districts of the Rwenzori Region in partnership with Stem Van Afrika.

The project involved training small scale rural entreprenuers (youth and women) especially in issues of market and credit access, advocacy, participation in budgetary processes and information sharing.

Most of the project participants are involved in agri-business since Rwenzori Region is pre-dorminantly an agricultural area.

The project also involved training and interactions with FM radio managers, proprietors and journalists in market information access, information dissemination, participation of rural communities in decision making and advocacy throughout the Rwenzori Region.

As a result of all the above activities, the project therefore, created a demand for ToroDev’s project participants to have an on-line tool to help them share and exchange information for entreprenuership development and participation in decision making in the Rwenzori region.

This is not ToroDev’s blog, it is everyone’s on-line tool to share information on entreprenuership development and democracy especially in the rural areas of Uganda.

We highly encaurage anyone with information related to market access, credit facilities, agricultural scientific information, enterprenuership success stories, ICTs and rural development or any thing in relation to entreprenuership development, democracy and ICTs to write us an article and send it to

Tuesday 13 September 2011

“One farmer was given free air time on the radio station” Basemere Yvonne

Miss Basemere Yvonne
Kyenjojo FM Staff
Kyenjojo District

After the training a lot of changes have been seen, when I attended the training of ToroDev I was able to meet some farmers who were introduced to our program manager.

One farmer was given free air time on the radio station, he has been on air for more than three times free of charge to share knowledge and information especially on fruit farming.

Kyenjo FM has also started going deep in the hard to reach villages to get farmers voices, record them and air them live on the radio station for better information sharing.

One of the challenges still facing rural FM radio journalists for better rural broadcasting for entrepreneurship development is the uncooperative rural entrepreneurs especially farmers who still fear to approach radio staff for information sharing.

For better broadcasting for entrepreneurship development, the civil society needs to help more in the areas of trainings to both rural radio staff and rural entrepreneurs on issues of broadcasting for entrepreneurship development.

The civil society also needs to sponsor some educative programs for the farmers on different radio stations and finally, radio staff need more facilitation to conduct research and cover stories in the hard to reach areas.

Friday 2 September 2011

“I have formed an association called Katebwa Sub Country farmers association which we use to market our coffee as a group.” Mr. Muhindo Ezra

Mr. Muhindo Ezra
Coffee farmer
Bunyagabu County
Kabarole District

As a result of ToroDev trainings on Rural FM radio broadcasting for Entrepreneurship Development, I have achieved a lot especially in regard to networking and use of ICT tools for coffee business development.

I have formed an association called Katebwa Sub Country farmers association which we use to market our coffee as a group. We also use it to lobby for radio programs as a group.

Muhindo Ezra in his Coffee Plantation
Radio stations have helped us to market our coffee through our associations we can know where to sale our coffee.

We participate on Voice of Toro Radio by calling in to ask for help when ever the program for farmers is being broadcasted.

As Katebwa Sub county farmers, most of us were not aware of the existence of farmer’s radio programs and how to utilize them to market our produce until we received trainings from ToroDev.

However, the trainings were not enough. I request the civil society for more trainings, on better farming practices, access and use of improved seeds, credit access and market access.

Friday 26 August 2011

More sensitization is needed on benefits of information and knowledge sharing

Mr Bamanyisa Patrick Black
Program manager
Voice of Toro  
Kabarole district

It’s unfortunate I attended only one workshop of ToroDev to train journalist on broadcasting for business development. A lot was achieved, ideas were shared, information exchanged and yes I appreciate you for the good work, however more and more trainings are needed for sensitize people.

Bamanyisa Patrick

Yes a lot has been improved on our packaging especially for the farmer’s programmes by making them more participatory and conducting more research before broadcasting them.
However, some challenges still remain for instance, people still don’t know how to speak on radio and many fear to come out to speak publically therefore, they need more sensitization because it is affecting information and knowledge sharing which is not good for business development.

Friday 12 August 2011

"I have been invited on Kyenjojo FM to speak on air at no cost..." Ahebwa Willam

Mr. Ahebwa Willam
Fruits farmer
Kakabara Sub County, Kyegegwa District

I attended all the workshops of ToroDev on Rural FM Radio Broadcasting for Entrepreneurship Development and I am a leader of the Kyegegwa District Radio Listenership Club, I have gained a lot from all the trainings I attended because my fruit market has expanded.

I have been invited on Kyenjojo FM to speak on air at no cost I really appreciate Toro Development workshop for the training.

Before the training with Toro Dev, I didn’t know the importance of the radio as a farmer but after the training, I got to understand that radio stations are the best ways of marketing my fruits and other produce because they are widely listened to.

I have been on Kyenjojo FM teaching other farmers, I have got different clients who ask for my seeds and come to buy them from my home and my agri-business is now expanding to a bigger level.

Ahebwa William (Lef) sharing with ToroDev M&E Officer Amanya Sheila
ToroDev has also connected me with different radio staff and I have got so many friends on the radio who help me to advertise my fruits weekly and monthly without any pay.

People have come from all over the region (Rwenzori Region) to buy my products hence increasing my market and income.

However, I still a have a challenge of expensive pesticides for my fruits.
I appeal to the Civil Society organizations to conduct more training and also establish a forum for fruit Farmers for improved knowledge sharing

"Now I listen to farmers programs on radio..." Musana Samuel - Youth Farmer

Mr. Musana Samuel. Busoro Subcounty, Kabarole District

Poultry keeper and farmer

I appreciate ToroDev for all the trainings they provided to me on Rural FM Radio Broadcasting for Entreprenuership Development, out of the training and workshops I attended, I was able to learn a lot especially on how to market my products on different radio stations.

Before the workshops of ToroDev on Rural FM Broadcasting for Entrepreneurship Development, I didn’t know that radio stations can help to market farmers produce, but now I know how to market my produces using radio stations and I can easily approach the radio staff for any help.

Now I listen to farmers programs on Radio stations across Rwenzori Region, this has helped me to get different ideas, knowledge and share issues with fellow farmers. I have to say that I used not to do it before the training workshops of ToroDev.

Musana Smauel in his Poultry Farm


I still have a problem with Rural FM radio stations because they still do not fully sensitize farmers on where to sale their produce.

Rural FM Radio stations have not yet reached the standards of broadcasting up-to-date information especially on market access, improved seeds, etc.

Efforts needed from the Civil Society on Rural FM Radio Broadcasting for Entrepreneurship Development
Civil Society organisations should sponsor some of the programs on radio like on weather focus.

They should also sponsor farmers and small scale entrepreneurs to appear on radio programmes to share knowledge

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Rural Woman maize farmer Embracing ICTs to market her produce

On Thursday 4th August, 2011 Toro Development Network (ToroDev) Staff had a tiresome but rather fruitful journey to the pre-dominantly maize growing areas of Kamwenge District in Western Uganda.

The reason was to asses’ progress of ToroDev’s in Partnership with Stem van Afrika interventions in Rural FM radio broadcasting for Entrepreneurship Development in the Rwenzori Region.

Muhereza Phobic describing how maize farming has helped her family pay school fees for her four children (one at university) and construct two permanent houses (one commercial in the town council and one residential)

The stop over was Mrs. Muhereza Phoebic maize farm, on the outskirts of Kamwenge town. In November 2010 ToroDev in Partnership with Stem van Afrika organized knowledge sharing and training workshops for small scale rural women and youth grassroot entrepreneurs on how they can use Rural FM radio stations to market their produce, services and information access for small scale rural entrepreneurship development.

The workshop was attended by over 47 women and youth rural small scale entrepreneurs from Kamwenge District. Mrs. Muhereza was one of the participants for the training. Since Rwenzori region in pre-dominantly an agricultural area, most of the participants were farmers.

After the workshop, a radio listenership club was formed for Kamwenge district which among other things was to lobby for better FM radio broadcasting and programming for rural entrepreneurship development.

According to Muhereza, local farmers especially members of the listenership club can now participate on Voice of Kamwenge agricultural radio programmes every Saturdays to share information and market their products because they are more organized and more networked with the radio staff. In addition, they are now more aware of the appropriate times and appropriate radio programs to access information related to markets especially for agricultural products.

The problem she finds in using FM radio stations is the high costs they still charge on advertisements for agricultural produce.

“Apart from FM radio stations, we also use mobile phones for information access and market for our maize. Mobile phones have greatly helped to link us with the middlemen who buy the maize” Says Mrs Muhereza.

Muhereza Using a Mobile Phone for market access
Although Muhereza is a successful maize farmer, to guard against the natural calamities and price fluctuations, she has diversified to poultry and cattle farming.

She attributes her successes to her husband who she describes as “very supportive” and together they have been able to pay school fees to their four children (one at the university) and construct two permanent houses (one commercial in the town council).

Despite all the success, she says the challenges are still quite enormous, “We have had challenges of increasing capital for agribusiness development because of high interest rates for loans from microfinance institutions and other banks and high loan security demands.”

After witnessing the fruits of unity through utilizing the listenership clubs to participate in agbusiness promotion radio programs, Muhereza is now focusing on mobilsing other maize farmers to jointly market and sell their maize produce to avoid exploitation by middlemen.

She adds that joint ventures with other maize farmers will also help reduce on the costs of radio advertisements and ensure better lobbying for better government services like better roads and reduced interest rates on loans among other benefits.

Monday 25 July 2011

ToroDev Staff acquire more skills in ICTs

ToroDev Staff Baguma Johnstone (Executive Director) and Solomon Akugizibwe (Media & Communications Officer) attended the web 2.0 learning opportunity at Makerere University, organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation EU-ACP (CTA) and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda.

Solomon Akugizibwe (Left) and Johnstone Baguma (right)
During the 5 days training (Monday 18 - Friday 22 July 2011), we were introduced to selected web 2.0 applications and learn’t how to use them hands-on in our everyday work.

The Learning Opportunity covered advanced online searching, getting information served via alerts and RSS, collaborating remotely using wikis and Google Docs, using VoIP, online mapping and social networking. Participants got a chance to see what others have done, get hands-on experience on how to use innovative applications, and assess how they could adopt these innovations within the context of their work and organisation.

These Learning Opportunities form part of CTA initiatives that support development partners in networking, accessing and disseminating information more effectively.

How we will use the knowledge acquired

ToroDev is currently implementing a project titled “Rural FM Radio Broadcasting for Entrepreneurship Development in Rwenzori Region – Western Uganda.”

The project focuses on training small scale rural entrepreneurs (youth and women) and rural FM radio journalists in broadcasting for entrepreneurship development.

The web 2.0 skills acquired by ToroDev staff will be used to train rural FM radio journalists in entrepreneurship information access and broadcasting using web 2.0 tools. Some of the computer literate Small Scale rural entrepreneurs will also be trained to share and access information for entrepreneurship development using web 2.0 tools.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Uganda: Radio Could Transform Rural Farmers

There is no doubt, FM radios are the most accessed channel of communication in Uganda, thanks to the liberalisation of the broadcast sector in the early 1990's which led to its rapid growth.

Rural people are increasingly accessing more information from the many rural FM stations spread throughout the country because of the enormous advantages they provide, leading to better decision making. Radios easily transcend barriers caused by isolation as a result of illiteracy, distance to urban centres, lack of power connectivity and general poverty.

In addition, rural FM radio's easily adapt to local language and culture, rural folks can listen to radio in privacy of their homes in a language they are comfortable with, requiring no special skills.

But what type of information do they provide to the rural folk? The former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela once said, "Bad media is better than no media at all." Yes, rural FM stations are doing a great work to empower the citizens through access to information but questions abound about quality.

What is the quality of the information accessed? Are they contributing to the improvement of the household incomes of their target audiences? Do they carry out on-the-job training to their journalists?
Do they involve their target audiences in programme design? What percentage of their time do they use for development messages in comparison to foreign broadcasts and music?

Uganda being a predominantly agricultural country with over 80 per cent of the population directly or indirectly employed in the sector - majority in the rural areas, appropriate use of radio to sensitise rural farmers on market information, seeds and access to loans can easily turn around their fortunes.

Rural FM radio's indeed have the potential to address all these challenges if equitable access to information and better knowledge sharing to enable the rural people exploit the available resources is ensured. A lot of agricultural sensitisation funds are invested in buying airtime and calling experts the usual way; to teach people what to do, the likes of NAADS. Yes, it is good but is it sustainable?

Government agencies, donors and civil society involved in agricultural sensitisation should know that there is need to more than just sensitise (buying airtime and calling experts to teach rural farmers what to do.) Rural FM stations, more than any other media, influence the opinion of rural folk but continue to employ untrained journalists because of the increased commercialisation of the sector.

Journalists and radio presenters continue to receive peanuts because to the radio owners, profits are at the forefront of anything to do with professional journalism and the information needs of poor rural folk.

I have been in the villages of Kabarole District in Western Uganda and listened to their radio stations, the topic is always who is going to win in the elections, which player Ferguson bought the other day, how Bobi Wine is pirating Kafeero's music, etc but not which agricultural products are available for sale in a given village, low interest farmer loans in a given financial institution, improved seeds in a given shop in town.

Imagine what difference it would make for a radio programme that connects buyers and sellers of agricultural products, giving the contact phone of the seller/buyer, place, amount and products needed or available.
If nothing is done, many people especially in the rural areas will continue to produce crops but continue to sell them at a low price to exploitative middle men, hence gaining little from months of hard work and the vicious cycle of poverty shall continue.

The writer (Solomon Akugizibwe) works with Toro Development Network

National Peace Corps Association Names Grand-Prize

Winner of Africa Rural Connect 2010 Ideas Competition

Winner to receive $12,000 to implement small-scale rural maize project in Uganda
Washington, D.C. - The National Peace Corps Association(NPCA), the nation’s leading nonprofit organization supporting Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the Peace Corps community, announced today that Johnstone Baguma of Uganda is the grand-prize winner of the Africa Rural Connect(ARC) 2010 ideas competition. Winners of the year’s four rounds and other noteworthy ideas submitted to the ARC online contest, including runners-up, competed for the grand prize. The panel of judges selected Baguma to receive $12,000 to implement a small-scale rural maize project in Uganda. ARC, launched last year by NPCA, is an online community that fosters collaborative thinking to generate ideas to help solve rural Africa’s greatest challenges.
Green Lifestyles - The National Peace Corps Association(NPCA), the nation's leading nonprofit organization supporting Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the Peace Corps community, announced today that Johnstone Baguma of Uganda is the grand-prize winner of the Africa Rural Connect(ARC) 2010 ideas competition.
“We had several really good ideas, so our judges had a hard time choosing the grand-prize winner,” says Molly Mattessich, manager of online initiatives for the National Peace Corps Association and a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali. “Baguma’s rural maize project serves as a model grassroots idea for others looking to develop ways to help improve rural Africa. ”

Baguma is founder and executive director of Toro Development Network (ToroDev), a community-based, non-governmental organization that promotes the access and strategic use of information communication technologies for development in western region of Uganda. His idea focuses on strengthening the capacity of small-scale rural maize farmers, focusing on demand-driven production for urban markets. The maize crop has been identified by ToroDev because of its multiplier effect: It serves both as a staple food and source of income for farmer’s households in the targeted rural community.

In addition to Wilber James, managing general partner with Rockport Capital, the other judges on the panel included Maréme Jamme, CEO of SpotOne Global Solutions, and Bruce McNamer, president and CEO of TechnoServe.

“The real winners of this contest continue to be those who live in rural Africa and benefit from all of the thought and hard work that goes into generating ideas for Africa Rural Connect,” adds Mattessich. “It’s always a struggle to choose from so many worthy ideas and this year was no different.”
To share your ideas and be part of the ARC online community, visit this site.

About the National Peace Corps Association Founded in 1979 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the National Peace Corps Association is the nation’s leading 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization supporting Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the Peace Corps community through networking and mentoring to help guide former volunteers through their continued service back home. It is also the longest-standing advocate on behalf of the Peace Corps and its values.
To learn more, visit this site

“Africa Rural Connect” Winner Hopes to Empower Rural Communities

By Luis Filipe Dias

Washington — An idea to make small-scale maize growers more successful came a step closer to reality with an award to an innovative Ugandan.

After seeing a series of other projects win Africa Rural Connect (ARC) online contests, Johnstone Baguma Kumaraki of Uganda was surprised and humbled that his proposal was selected as the grand prize winner of the 2010 ARC ideas competition — a program sponsored by the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA).

Woman tending maize (Courtesy photo)
Farmers in Uganda will benefit from the ideas of Africa Rural Connect’s 2010 winner, ToroDev.
“It’s a great achievement and a milestone for our organization, and it’s a signal of our commitment to empowering rural communities,” said Kumaraki, who is the founder and executive director of Toro Development Network, known as ToroDev.

A panel of judges selected Kumaraki to receive $12,000 to implement a small-scale rural maize project in Uganda.

His project, “Increasing Small Scale Rural Maize Producers’ Revenues by Promoting Maize Value Addition and Collective Marketing in Kyegegwa and Kyenjojo Districts of Western Uganda,” was selected from among 1,200 entries.

“We had several really good ideas, so our judges had a hard time choosing the grand prize winner,” said Molly Mattessich, manager of online initiatives for the NPCA and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Mali. “Kumaraki’s rural maize project serves as a model grass-roots idea for others looking to develop ways to help improve rural Africa.”

According to ToroDev — a community-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) that promotes access to and strategic use of information communication technologies for development in the western region of Uganda — maize has a “multiplier effect” because it serves as a staple food and source of income for farmers’ households in rural communities.

Kumaraki’s idea focuses on increasing the capacity of small-scale rural maize farmers to increase revenues and access to urban markets by providing them with local storage facilities.

He said ToroDev has encouraged rural families to own mobile phones by identifying influential farmers and sending them current market prices via SMS text messages.

“We are taking it a step ahead and looking at issues of how to minimize harvest loss, how to transport crops and how to best store them,” said Kumaraki, who told that the first step is to agree with farmers on the location of five easily accessible storage centers that also would allow prospective buyers better access for transporting grain to urban markets.

“In the short term, farmers can store their crops in bulk, and in the long run we plan on transforming the facilities into marketing centers — with information points, Internet connection and a place where people could charge their phones,” Kumaraki said.

“Lastly, we are looking at how farmers can establish their own credit facilities or village banks, which could be established in these marketing centers that will be owned by groups of families.”
ARC — launched in 2009 by the National Peace Corps Association, a nonprofit organization supporting returned Peace Corps volunteers and the Peace Corps community — is an online global network that fosters collaborative thinking to respond to the needs of African farmers.

Funded initially by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ARC project aims to collect ideas from people who live and work in Africa.

“The best ideas come from the ground up and from people collaborating,” Mattessich said. “We initially started with our core and reached out to our network of Peace Corps volunteers that served in Africa and then to rural farmers and to the Africa Diaspora.”

Mattessich explained the website — — is built around the concept of collaboration, so that an idea that is formed on the site can attract resources and partners and develop into a concrete business plan.

Throughout the year ARC selects eight projects to receive $1,000 grants and then selects a grand prize winner among all entries at the end of the year.

The platform is free to anyone with an Internet connection. The site accepts input on how to improve the collaborative nature of the site and has grown since its inception.

“We have added a new feature, [through] which one can endorse a project by pledging time or money,” Mattessich said. “There are no transactions done directly on the site, but it allows for organizations to connect together.”

Interconnecting organizations is exactly what Kumaraki hopes to see, after the recognition he gained by winning the 2010 ARC ideas competition.
“It’s encouraging when you work hard and you receive an award like this, but more importantly it can open doors in the donor and partnership community,” Kumaraki said. “It would be great to partner with other programs and get more support.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

Monday 16 May 2011

GenARDIS grantees: Small scale woman farmers in Western Uganda: Increasing revenues through ICTs

Successful global research results indicate that there is no doubt that “Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) improve rural people’s livelihoods” (IDRC/Acacia Prospectus 2006-2011). In a rural community context, this phrase is widely understood to mean traditional and modern electronic tools that include telephony (both mobile and fixed), community radio transmissions, television broadcasting, cinemas, computer hardware, software and the internet that help access and use quality information that has the potential to accelerate, if used strategically, sustainable rural people’s social, economic and political development. However, in the Rwenzori Region of Western Uganda where the Toro Development Network (ToroDev) operates, ICTs need to be embraced more comprehensively. Although efforts have been made in the past five years by a limited number of local and international NGOs, assessments show most of these initiatives have been dominated by men. A more gender-sensitive intervention is needed to enable both men and women to generate and exchange reliable information of relevant local content on their own. There is a need to strategically involve men who have taken a step in embracing ICTs, to enhance gender advocacy and sensitisation programmes that target improving the status of women and sharing knowledge by building an electronic community and network, especially in the agricultural and agro-business sector. Over 80% of rural women depend on small-scale agriculture and agro-business sector in the region.
In order to address this situation Toro Development Network (ToroDev) successfully submitted the project “Increasing Small-Scale Women Farmers’ Revenues in Kabarole and Kyenjojo Districts of Western Uganda by Using Sustainable ICT4D-Enabled Production and Marketing Tools”. ToroDev is a community-based NGO established in 2005 to promote the use of appropriate ICTs for sustainable and gender sensitive socio-economic community development in the rural Rwenzori region of Western Uganda. Its current operations cover the districts of Kabarole and Kyenjojo.
Agriculture, men and women in the Rwenzori region
Small-Scale Women farmers in the Rwenzori region of western Uganda are facing the poorest agricultural production and marketing conditions because the majority have much more limited access to relevant information and communication facilities compared to men. The Batoro traditional culture puts men at the helm of women’s welfare and therefore women have, for long, complacently settled for less in terms of their social and economic development. Men in the community look at women as merely housekeepers, responsible for provision of free domestic labour, childbearing and ensuring food security for the family, leaving them with no time to access quality education, skills training and other programs that increase opportunities for access to both traditional and modern ICTs. Further to this, women are frequently used by their husbands to work in commercial agricultural farms, whose earnings go to the men. This is another form of exploiting women, yet they comprise 58% of the 1.5 million people in the region. However, today due to national constitutional reforms that favour women’s empowerment, there is a steady increase in the number of women defying the above inappropriate cultural beliefs that belittle them, by steadily employing themselves in the small-scale agricultural sector, either independently or semi-independently since most of the land is culturally owned by the men in the community. In August 2007, ToroDev carried out a sample survey in twelve rural farmers’ groups, of which five were women-led, with a total of 120 registered members in Kabarole and Kyenjojo districts. The survey revealed that, for example, the total sales share of a kilogram of maize, beans and groundnuts in an urban market place between these farmers and an intermediary was at 38% and 62% respectively. This was due to lack of current market price information and low value production.
There is need to increase rural small-scale women farmers’ revenues, which can be done by supporting them to access and use simple ICT4D tools, by strategically involving men who have taken a step ahead in embracing these same tools and supporting them to improve on agricultural production skills, thus adding value to their products. Sharing knowledge with colleagues for behavioural change also helps them get instant information about better market prices, and communicate easily and cheaply with buyers in the nearest urban centres like Fort Portal, Mbarara , Kampala and beyond.
Bringing change about
The project seeks to increase the total sales share of at least 120 members of five groups of rural small-scale women farmers by at least 25% by tapping into men’s support for ICT training, using and piloting ICT4D-enabled demand-driven intensive farming that reduces reliance on middlemen by directly linking them to potential buyers in the nearest urban centres and regional markets by 2010.
Specific objectives include: to hold eight community radio sensitisation talk shows on the role of simple ICTs tools and influencing behavioural change, with support from men in improving rural women’s small-scale agriculture production and increasing household income by March 2009; to train 70 members from five small-scale women farmers’ groups to use modern ICT and Web 2.0 tools to gather, package and disseminate information to their colleagues and set up electronic networks with other agricultural organisations locally and globally by July 2009; and, finally, to develop a rural community agricultural marketing and knowledge sharing system that provides timely information to women farmers on current agricultural products prices in urban centres and available ICT4D resources and opportunities from ToroDev and partners by use of male agents, mobile phones and bicycles by October 2009.
Gender and ICT issues at stake
The women make up 58% of the total population in the two districts. Among these, over 80% women live in rural areas and are involved in subsistence and small-scale commercial farming. Women are responsible for providing food for their families whereas most men/husbands move to urban centres where the ICT infrastructure is more developed, enabling them to more access and use of ICTs than rural women. Yet back in rural areas, women also often contribute household income in order to enable their family members receive good healthcare and pay for children’s education, among other needs. 43% of these women are illiterate and speak only the local language (Runyakitara) whereas 57% of the remaining members can at least read, write, speak and interpret simple documents prepared in English. In the Kyenjojo district, the villages where these women live have no power or internet connectivity, whereas in the Kabarole district, less than 15% of the targeted rural women can access electricity. Only 23% of the rural women in the targeted districts can afford to use generators and solar power at nearby trading centres. Therefore, the use of individual computers and mobile phones in these areas is a big challenge. On top of that, internet connectivity provided by the mobile telecom companies in rural areas is very expensive for these rural women. Supporting these rural women access and use (after training) simple and cheap (Open Source) Web 2.0 Tools, at community information centres/points, that facilitate the generation of relevant local content (in local language, audio & visual and formats affordable to rural women) information can help them manage information flow and share knowledge for improved production and marketing in the agriculture and agro-business sector.
More information on ToroDev’s website