HTANTABIN, Myanmar When disease or insect infestation struck his rice plants in years past, farmer Kyaw Shwe could only guess at causes and remedies. Recently, however, he simply clicked on an app on his smartphone and discovered the problem was Scirpophaga incertulas, the yellow stem borer. He also found the specific pesticide he needed to kill it.
Kyaw Shwe is among millions of farmers in Myanmar who have benefited from one of the world's most rapid proliferations of mobile phones, and with them, apps that provide once-isolated and impoverished rural communities with everything from weather reports to crop prices at the nearest market -- or even on another continent.
Kyaw Shwe demonstrates how agri-mobile apps have helped in farming his rice fields. (Photo by Denis D. Gray)
These agri-mobile apps to boost production and farm income are likely to have wide-ranging impact in Myanmar, where agriculture employs more than 60% of the workforce and accounts for nearly 40% of gross domestic product, according to the World Bank.
The agri-apps have already spread into almost every corner of the country. The two most widely used apps -- Green Way and Golden Paddy -- both came on stream in 2016.
The Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation has provided training in the use of these digital tools for about 1,000 government extension workers in the agriculture, livestock, fisheries and rural development sectors, as well as to civil society and journalists.
Green Way was developed over five years by Thein Soe Min, who had earlier worked for a nongovernmental organization in Myanmar's Rakhine State, where farmers often had problems that needed more expert solutions than his team could offer.
Today, his Greenovator startup has enlisted more than 1,800 local and foreign experts who answer queries from farmers. The free platform, providing a wide spectrum of information, also allows interaction with nongovernmental organizations, government agencies and traders.