Most Ugandans (87%, according to the World Bank) live in rural areas and are involved in farming. Without access to information about modern farming methods, they struggle to make a living. Uganda’s 140 public and community libraries serve as critical information access points for communities. But many of these known and trusted information service providers do not have electricity, computers or internet connections.
The innovative project
With support from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) in 2012, the non-governmental organization Maendeleo Foundation installed wi-fi internet connections and netbook computers in five rural libraries (three netbooks per library). The libraries are all members of the Uganda Community Libraries Association (UgLA), Maendeleo Foundation’s main partner in the Connect Uganda Project. At three libraries where there was no electricity, the foundation installed solar panels to charge the netbooks.
Working with UgCLA, Makerere University Centres for Lifelong Learning, government farm support agencies and farmers’ groups, the libraries launched a programme that includes free ICT training for farmers and creation of information in local languages. Farmers responded enthusiastically.
eifl-plip project timeline
May 2012 - April 2013.
achievements and Impact
In less than a year, the five libraries trained 700 farmers and other community members, and 10 librarians to use computers and the internet. They supported information searches of 570 farmers and trained 10 farmer volunteers (two at each library) to share translated and re-packaged information at farmers’ group meetings, thus also serving the needs of non-literate farmers.
The project demonstrated to the rural communities the value of information and communication technology (ICT). As a result, farmers' groups and library users were inspired to contribute to the cost of internet connections. The project helped farmers petition a government agricultural agency to supply them with disease-resistant coffee plants, and to identify new species of trees to grow and sell. Access to ICT and connection to the outside world encouraged young people to take up farming as a career.
additional resources and media
Read a BBC story about Maendeleo Foundation, featuring their work in schools and the Connect Uganda project.