NUST student creates cellphone App to revolutionise farming

THE term ‘cellphone farmer’ became a buzz word at the turn of the millennium to describe farmers who were hardly on the farms but would make phone calls to their workers to give
them instructions.

The cellphone farmers were blamed for poor yields as in most cases workers took advantage of their absence to either under perform or completely ignore their instructions. In the event of a mistake, corrective action could not be taken promptly to minimise prejudice.

Government has repeatedly said it does not condone cellphone farming which it says is largely to blame for underutilisation of land land thereby threatening food security.

Cellphone farming should however not be misconstrued to mean adopting Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to improve crop productivity.Government through the National Development Strategy 1 and Agriculture Recovery Plan strategy aims to transform the agricultural sector into a US$8,2 billion industry by 2024.

Mr Mthandazo Ncube, a final year Computer Science student at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) believes he is on course to revolutionise farming. He has devised a cellphone application called Easy Farm, whose aim is to make farming easier through provision of farming data to farmers.

Mr Ncube said his application mainly targets youthful farmers who always want to be on their cellphones to improve crop production. “Following President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030, which seeks to improve agriculture and the quality of agricultural produce, we developed Easy Farm, a mobile application mostly for the youths, who are venturing into agriculture.
Mr Ncube said instead of holding meetings to educate farmers, the information was now being sent to farmers through cellphones.

He said the new application provides detailed information about farming opportunities in each of the country’s provinces.

“When one opens the application, he or she selects the province where he or she is farming. When for example you select Matabeleland South province, it will give you a list of crops that are recommended for that province. On each and every crop there is information on planting dates, when to plant and the seed type to use in that region. We have different regions that receive different amounts of rains. Region 4 and 5 are usually associated with droughts so the regions need seed types that are drought tolerant,” said Mr Ncube.

He said the App also gives information on fertilisers to use in a particular region. There is also information on weed control and disease control for each gvien region. Mr Ncube said
the aim of the application is to educate farmers on how to effectively and efficiently work on the land to boost production.

“We are also working with other organisations such as Seed-Co and Agriculture Marketing Association so that we can provide accurate agriculture related information. We believe
that if farmers use this App, it will assist them to improve yields and minimise losses,” he said.

Nust’s communications and marketing director Mr Thabani Mpofu said the application is one of the several innovations soon to be launched by the university. “That Easy Farm application speaks to farming made easy. What has really motivated that project is the Government focus on promoting the youth to take up farming as a business. The youth are tech savvy, their methods of farming are different from the old generation of farmers. The youth rely on technology on almost everything. You can’t tell a young person to attend a farmers’ meeting in Matobo Ward 4.
You should instead give them the information on their mobile phones and that is what this App intends to do,” said Mr Mpofu. — @nqotshili.

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