Macedonia turns to SMS to curb pesticide use

Aug 19, 2013
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Farmers in the Prespa Lake Basin of Resen, Macedonia are reducing the amount of harmful pesticides polluting the region with the help of a new system that incorporates monitoring pests and social media, according to National Geographic’s “News Watch”.

In response to the growing problem of pollution, the United Nations Development Programme worked with the local municipality to set up a solar-powered monitoring system for insects in 2005. However, the timeliest method to get pest updates to farmers was by posting flyers in the town square.

“The problem of knowing the best time to spray is a problem faced by all farmers. It’s about the speed of notification and that’s in many ways a technical problem needing a technical solution,” said Eftim Petkovski, a local farmer told the UNDP in a post about the project.

The solution came in the form of an SMS system developed by the Faculty of Computer Science at the Universityof Cyriland Methodius in Skopjethat sends updates to farmers. The system also posts the information to the Farmers’ Association Facebook page, which provides extra information to the farmers.

A recent SMS sent to farmers reads:

Apple trees in the area of the village of Rajca have been infected by the codling moth. The apple trees should be treated in the next 10 days. For more info, visit the Facebook page or call the Association of Farmers.

“That message went out to every farmer in thevillageofRajcawhose name is registered with the local Association of Farmers,” Mr. Petkovski said in the post. “And that’s how we were able to spray before the moths had a chance to spread. Just knowing that in time has saved a lot of our fruit.”

Up-to-date data on pests can go a long way in reducing when and how much is sprayed. Pesticide use in the area has decreased by 30 percent because of the availability of up-to-date information, the UNDP reports.

This image is a screen grab from the farmers’ Facebook page 

The cheap and simple implementation of the system makes it attractive for replication in other communities, and innovation continues as the development team works on ways to improve the system and add another layer to the communications in the future.

This is not the first time farmers in former Yugoslaviahave used an SMS based project to improve their output. Ericsson and the Macedonian government sponsored “e-agro”, an auction system based in SMS that allows farmers to find buyers locally or globally- and at the best prices. It is expected to be one way of increasing efficiency for farmers selling produce. Macedonian farmers began testing that system last year, and now this program aims to provide information that will increase output.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr account UNDP in Europe and Central Asia


About the Author

Danielle Miller

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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