Mobile phones are an important business tool for farmers in rural areas. But they also put a valuable educational tool in their hands. The University of Illinois in the United States has a project called SAWBO -- Scientific Animations Without Borders. It produces educational videos that can be downloaded to cell phones. The goal is to help people in developing countries improve their lives. One video, for example, shows farmers how to make a natural insecticide from neem seeds to prevent insect damage to crops. The videos use computer animation. Some of the animated characters are a little funny looking -- like a farmer with a long nose. But the subjects are serious, including a health video on preventing cholera. Team member Francisco Seufferheld says the information in the videos is meant to be quickly understood. "The information is digested in such a way that in two minutes, we can transmit a complex idea."The team has made a few videos so far. These are available in a total of eighty languages, dialects and accents. Professor Barry Pittendrigh says there are plans for more videos later this year.Purdue University in Indiana is using videos to promote a project in Africa called PICS, Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage. The aim is to get farmers to use special bags to keep air and bugs out of their cowpea harvests.The Purdue researchers have produced their videos in different countries in Africa. Crop scientist Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer says this helps local farmers relate to them. The researchers did an experiment in Niger with a video showing how to close the bags. Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer says the process is not difficult to do, just difficult to describe. "Closing the bags is something that, if you see it, you will understand it very quickly. And most people do. But explaining it in words is quite difficult."The researchers tested the seven-minute video on seven mobile phones. They wanted to see if people would share the video using Bluetooth wireless technology. With Bluetooth, files can be passed to a nearby phone even if neither phone is connected to the Internet. "In one month, the video had spread to one hundred eighteen people in fifty different villages. And we think that this is just incredible impact." For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. For daily news and information plus activities for English learners, go to voaspecialenglish.com.
(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 14Jun2011)