RUNetwork System

1999-2020 | Knowledge management system

Bridging the gap between science and rural farmers.

The project

When a farmer in rural Africa has a problem with their livestock or crops, it can be hard to find a solution without access to the internet.

The RUNetwork (Rural Universe Network) system aims to bridge the gap between rural farmers and science by providing a framework that uses a bottom-up approach that allows farmers to ask a question to an expert. RUNetwork is active in many countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

In a nutshell, the RUNetwork system works like this:

  • A farmer with a problem calls in a RUN field agent.
  • The agent travels to the farm and investigates the issue by asking questions and taking photos of the problem.
  • The questionnaire the field agent uses not only focuses on the problem, but also aims to document the overall circumstances on the farm. This is to ensure that the suggested solution meets the need of the farmer.
  • The field agents travels to the nearest internet café and sends the information to RUN's central answering service, who call in an expert or scientist to provide a solution.
  • It is important that the suggested solution meets the farmer's needs: it needs to be translated in the farmer's language and clearly documented with images and the solution needs to be affordable and doable for the farmer.
  • The solution to the problem is sent back to the field agent, who prints out the answer and travels back to the farmer who asked the question.
  • The farmer evaluates the service and if she is happy with the solution, all operators in the system are paid through a voucher system.
  • All information is shared on the RUN website and with the rest of the community.
RUN field agent shares information on paper with the community
The RUN archive of information on agricultural problems is shared with the entire community. Without access to the internet, the information is shared through a paper archive that the field agent takes along on his missions.

The RUN System was one of the earliest online platforms directly supporting rural communities in West Africa. The bottom-up approach means that farmers can get relevant answers to concrete questions. Farmers feel empowered, they have access to science and expert knowledge to solve their problems and are able to respond quicker to the challenges of a changing climate. This results in higher productivity allowing more farmers to move on from subsistence farming to commercial production.

The same farming problems might occur in several places. Once a problem has been answered, it can be accessed via the RUN archive. RUN keeps track of the locations where specific problems arise, and this information is used as an early warning system that can alert farmers of possible disease outbreaks in their area before they happen.

What we did

The first version of the RUN System website was developed by Frank in 1999. AKM Services has kept the platform up and running since then and has added features to support knowledge exchange projects and support for offline use of the system to cater for the bad connectivity of stakeholders in Africa.