On the Effects of Mobile Phones on Poverty in Africa

It may come as a surprise that mobile phones are increasingly becoming a commonplace investment in households throughout the developing world. India and Africa have been particularly targeted. Phone manufacturers worldwide are competing to flood African markets with their products, banking on the prediction that the African market for smartphones will double in the next four years. Africa is second only to Asia in number of subscribers, and its mobile penetration rate is the highest in the world.
Rural System visiting UgandaPhoto taken by Risa Pesapane, project director of Rural System, during the Rural System visit to Uganda in 2013. [Read more…]

Explore the Future of Rural Business

We’re excited here at Rural System about all the new possibilities for the future of rural business! The modern farmer is breaking the mold with higher education and new technology- not to mention our farmer 10.0 could be a lady.

farmer 1.0 vs 10.0

Here’s what you need to know about the future of rural business in 2014: [Read more…]

Crowdsourcing the Future: How Citizen Scientists and Mobile Technology are Changing the Face of Science

The possibilities of what can be done with “the internet” seem to grow exponentially with each passing year. We often think of what the internet can do for us, but what about what we can do for the internet? In the past few years, we’ve learned how to harness the immense power of all those connected minds online through crowdsourcing. If you aren’t familiar with the term crowdsourcing, it refers to leveraging the brainpower or manpower of large groups of people through the internet for services, ideas, or content. Think games and apps are a waste of time – think again! Scientists have cleverly designed apps, games, and websites which engage average citizens in scientific research. By gaming from your laptop on your couch or using an app on your smartphone on the bus, you could actually help find a cure for AIDS, save an endangered species, or help prevent a flu epidemic. Essentially, this is citizen science at its best. [Read more…]

New Horsepower in the Rural System

What works like a mule but doesn’t have legs? The new Rural System tool aptly named the mechanical mule.

The invention of the tractor revolutionized farming. Horses and mules are costly, need rest, and are affected by temperature or pests. Early tractors plowed an acre in the third of the time it would take five horses to do the same work.  Today’s powerful tractors accelerate the process even further. However, the cost of tractors can easily reach over $100,000. Arguably, the use of tractors is cost-effective because of the benefits of efficiency and scale even on small farms. A great assessment of farm machinery costs can be found here.  Despite the eventual cost-savings, the upfront costs, even just a few thousand dollars, are prohibitive for some farmers.  Subsistence farmers in developing regions and farmers in impoverished areas throughout the United States struggle to afford even the most inexpensive tractor. This is a great story about how a single tractor can change a community. How can we recreate this benefit on a larger scale? A less expensive, but equally efficient, tool for plowing fields could make a big difference.

Mechanical mule - side view

The mechanical mule prototype. This model is outfitted with a low axle but can easily be scaled up to larger wheels to overcome uneven terrain.

[Read more…]

GMOs Demystified- Part 4: Biological Patents

Rural System, above all else, is an approach to land management that emphasizes reasonableness in making management decisions. “How much profit can be made?” is balanced with “How long will profit be made?” “What’s good for humans?” is balanced with “What is good for the ecosystem?” All management decisions are made according to the most recent scientific knowledge on the topic.

The debate over genetically modified food has been extensive and multi-faceted. Like many sensationalized issues, it can be difficult to sort out truth from bias. The series of posts before you is a guide to GMOs based on available science rather than uninformed opinion. Our fourth question: should biotech companies be able to patent genetic sequences?

Biological Patents [Read more…]