August 23, 2011
Dani Limos is a Marketing and Communications Intern at Grameen Foundation's Seattle office.
The dairy cow needed more calcium.
When Gonzaga Kawuma’s cow collapsed and could not stand up, Gonzaga was away from his farm. His wife called him on his smartphone with the disheartening news. Without seeing the cow in person, without conducting expensive tests, without being an expert in agriculture, Gonzaga was able to conclude that the cow needed more calcium.
Why was this cow having trouble standing up? Gonzaga relied on his smartphone to diagnose its illness.
This cow’s fall could have been caused by a number of ailments – muscle fatigue, arthritis, foot rot – but a shortage of calcium in a cow that produces milk? How could Gonzaga ever come up with such a diagnosis?
As a Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) in Uganda, Gonzaga has access to a wealth of farming knowledge through mobile phone technology. He helps other poor farmers every day find solutions to their problems, providing them with information about weather, crop and animal diseases, market prices, and the like. Now, as a poor farmer himself, he was his own client. He took out his smartphone, typed in the symptoms of his dairy cow and pored through databases of information. The verdict? "Milk fever."
Caused by a sudden shortage of blood calcium, milk fever causes the cow to stagger, experience difficulty rising, and finally become unable to stand at all. It often occurs when the cow gives birth, and the demand for calcium to produce milk exceeds its ability to do so. Gonzaga’s cow had given birth just three days ago.
Gonzaga was able to save his cow – and his livelihood – thanks to the information he found using his smartphone.
The information that Gonzaga had found suggested contacting a veterinarian for help. Taking advantage of his smartphone once again, he called a vet, who prescribed a calcium injection. The treatment was administered and the cow successfully recovered. Thanks to Gonzaga’s CKW access, the cow is healthy and currently produces between 18 and 20 liters of milk per day!