Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 18:03 UK

'Google helped me harvest a bumper crop'

Is the internet your lifeline, or your nightmare? People across Africa have been sharing their stories with BBC News. Click here to send your own story.

Zack Matere
My customer came to me from a Google search
Zack Matere, Kenya

Not long ago I had a problem on my half-acre potato farm in rural Kenya.

My healthy crop of potatoes was suddenly dying one after the other, much to the puzzlement of our local agriculture officer and me.

A search on Google for potato pests and diseases finally identified the problem - ants! They had infested the farm to suck the sap of the potato stems and finishing them of one after the other.

The solution suggested was simple and environmentally friendly - sprinkle wood ash at the base of the stems.

After a few days of this treatment the ants disappeared and I was able to harvest a bumper crop two months later.

Hidden bonus

An unexpected bonus to this story was that I was able to sell my crop at a good price to a local restaurant in the nearby town of Eldoret.

This customer came to me from the initial Google search that had the contacts of the Kenya Potato Growers' Association, who connected me to the customer.

Going online also enabled me to get high quality seed potatoes and technical advice from the Kenya potato research station at Tigoni.

Map of Eldoret, Kenya

Intrigued by the unique way in which the internet and mobile phone had added value and knowledge to my enterprise, I was challenged to share my experience with my fellow small scale farmers.

They are much better than me at farming - all they lack is a digital know-how.

The question was: how best to reach and interact with a farming community of 10,000 residents in an area of 50 km radius?

The idea of Leo network of notice boards came to me. In my rural community, it is about making use of simple wooden notice boards, with print outs of text messages, e-mails, photos illustrations and articles, all talking of local issues.

Here are some of your comments:

It is truly amazing how technology is helping farmers. We have an SMS service in Kenya which informs us of the correct maize seeds for a particular altitude!
Thomas Chemelil, Eldoret, Kenya

Growing up in Sierra Leone, I have always seen these women with small potato gardens sprinkling ashes on their crops. So it is no surprise that I read this about getting rid of ants by sprinkling ashes at the stem of the potato plant. If only us as Africans could talk to the older generation and find out how they have been preventing and curing diseases such as malaria, hookworm etc., before there was western medicine.
Donald, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Its true that ashes do keep at bay the ants and termites, we do that each year during rain season when there's a lot of the them in our homes, its a common thing around here.
Ngosha, Mwanza, Tanzania

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