While researching, I found an interesting Case Study: “Using Mobile Phones to Reduce the Adversities of Climate Change in Rural Nepal.” The study was regarding a disaster risk reduction project put on by Practical Action in Nepal and supported by the Department of International Development (UK). The project focused on the rural communities in South-Central Nepal where villagers primarily rely on agriculture as means of subsistence. However, due to a lack of technical means, their agricultural outputs were very limited. Reports of climate change started occurring in the area, such as greater precipitation and higher temperatures. This was especially concerning because the area already has poor geographical features that are prone to flooding.
Moving forward, the project planned to involve the use of mobile phones to reduce certain vulnerabilities prompted by the potential climate change, and to improve the livelihoods of the village agriculturalists. One of the project features was a phone-based early warning system that allowed upstream and downstream communities to effectively communicate information on flood signs. A phone list of main contacts in both the upstream and downstream communities was provided to enact this system. So, when there was heavy rain, those contacts living upstream could call and warn those in the downstream communities. Because of this early communication, the downstream communities could evacuate their livestock, property and family in time before the flooding arrived. The downstream community contacts were also warned about landslides. Another feature of the project was that it developed a list of service providers and traders with whom the farmers could engage with (via mobile phone) and gain useful agricultural and value chain information.
In terms of weighing the pros and cons of the project, it should be noted that the project did not pay for the mobile phones or the call charges. I suppose this comes with a restrictive budget, but to be even more successful I would imagine a reduced cost on purchasing the actual phones could be an incentive for ALL villagers to participate. Another challenge was seen in the fact that most of the users were very unfamiliar with the mobile phones, and get acquainted with their new phones took time. The actual case study itself coined the project a success. For example, risk of life and other losses from flooding decreased; increases in income were seen; and, livelihoods were strengthened. I think that this project is a great example as to how rural agricultural ICT projects can help with disaster preparedness!
Access to this case study and learn more about ICT’s and Climate Change go to NICCD.