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Sustainable Energy

Solar panels meet Android tablets in Uganda, and farmers win

Maendeleo installing solar panels on Uganda's libraries. Photo: EIFL
Maendeleo installing solar panels on Uganda's libraries. Photo: EIFL

Basking on the equator, Uganda catches plenty of rays. A library database and solar power project is using them to connect rural farmers.

The electrical power grid only reaches five to ten percent of Ugandans, and the country's 42 regional languages "have made it difficult to relay pertinent agricultural information to the majority of farmers," says Aisa Kamukama. Kamukama heads the Maendeleo Foundation, which in April 2012 landed $14,850 grant from the non-profit Electronic Information for Libraries to implement a database in local languages at five libraries across the country. If the pilot program is successful over the course of this year, "it will be scaled up to reach the whole country."

With three Android-based tablets installed at each site and solar panels where needed, these five communities will be able to connect to the Internet through existing 3G and GSM cellular networks. The libraries compile contemporary agricultural information and translate it into local languages. The farmers provide feedback, and Maendeleo inputs the information into the database, linking previously disconnected communities with accurate, locally-relevant tips.

By capturing and translating local agriculture knowledge and making it available through solar-powered tablets at already-existing libraries, farmers have the potential to increase their yields and profits. If this kind of rural info hub is successful, education, healthcare and commerce sectors could follow suit, and the implications could be enormous.

Stay tuned for more about the pilot project's results.

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