Livestock Information Network and Knowledge System (LINKS)
Livestock Marketing Monitors
LINKS livestock market monitors are typically drawn from collaborating national institutions of each major livestock market location in Eastern Africa. Market monitors are adequately trained in the use of livestock market data collection formats and are given adequate instruction and guidance on the proper ways of approaching sellers, brokers and traders to collect reliable data in an effective way. The monitors are provided with mobile phones and scratch cards to enable them send the collected data to the database system as soon as possible.
Selection of Livestock Markets
One of the major aims of the LINKS project is to determine the application of and usefulness of an integrated spatial, information
and communications technologies in improving livestock market information infrastructure in Eastern Africa. The spatial, information,
and communication toolkit being assembled here include: Global Positioning Systems, Mobile Phones, WorldSpace radios,
computing analysis and web-based platforms. Integration of these tools makes it possible for the system to carry out market chain analysis indicating the where, how much/many and associated costs of getting the desired goods and services.
Types of Market Data Collected
Livestock prices and volumes are collected through interviews with traders (usually buyers due to security reasons) during the peak of a market day. A trained livestock market monitor collects data on five cases of each of the dominant animal breed, class and grade combination on that market day. Average prices by animal kind, breed, class and grade is then calculated along with the total volumes of livestock by animal kind. The data is coded and sent into the database system using
SMS email or posted directly on the web into the database system.
Kind, Classes and Breeds of Livestock Monitored
The system monitors most of the major domestic livestock kinds in Eastern Africa (cattle, camel, sheep, goats, donkeys and horses) with their corresponding breeds and classes. However, the system is flexible to accommodate any additional kinds of livestock that might be of interest to the potential users of the system.
In many parts of Africa, livestock are commonly bought and sold through visual assessment of the animal抯 body condition rather than through weighing as is normally practiced in developed countries. LINKS designed a grading system which consists of a combination of visual assessment of body condition (fatness) of a given breed and class of an animal. The new grading system is a compressed version of the body scoring system developed by Nicholson and Butterworth (1986) for zebu cattle. This grading system allows practical separation of livestock into more uniform groups to reduce heterogeneity within breeds and classes so as to reflect expected differences in prices. The system is based on a scale of 1 to 4 depending on visual assessment of the body condition of the animals.
Different domesticated animal species such as cattle, sheep, goats and camels.
Breeds of domesticated livestock such as Boran, Zebu, and Sahiwal for cattle; Blackhead Persian and Red Maasai for sheep.
Livestock gender and age combination such as mature male, mature female, young male, male castrate etc
Short Message Service (SMS) is a globally accepted wireless service that enables the transmission of alphanumeric messages between mobile (phones) subscribers and external systems such as electronic mail (computers via the Internet), paging, and voice-mail systems. SMS is a part of the GSM technology that has become increasingly popular worldwide nowadays since it is much cheaper compared to voice messages. LINKS project is pioneering work on the application of SMS as a foundation for reporting and transmitting livestock market data. A shorthand SMS text coding system was devised for effective transmission given the limitations in the number of characters allowed in a single SMS text which is only 160 when Latin alphabets are used, and 70 characters in length when non-Latin alphabets such as Arabic and Chinese are used.
Global Positioning Systems
Global Positioning System (GSM) is a satellite based navigation and positioning system for determining the geographic coordinates (Latitude/Longitude) of points on the earth抯 surface. Livestock markets selected for inclusion into LINKS system are georeferenced using Global Positioning System receivers. Knowing the coordinates of each market allows the market to be spatially displayed to enable integration of market information with other related spatial information such as forage surface maps, livestock densities and accessibility maps to generate market value added information for decision makers.
WordSpace Satellite Radio
The WorldSpace radio technology allows the deployment of Mobile Communication Nodes consisting of a computer laptop, solar panel, adapter, portable printer, and a satellite radio receiver. LINKS project is using the technology in disseminating market information and analysis back to the communities. The WorldSpace satellite radio receivers pick up information broadcasts, which can be viewed via a connection to a laptop computer. The information can be downloaded and saved on the computer, so that national institutions can in turn print it and share it with the pastoral communities. Networks of Mobile Communication Nodes were already established by the
Livestock Early Warning System project (LEWS) across the remote areas of East Africa to transfer reports at scheduled times each day. Many of these communication nodes are located in NGO offices, district offices and communication offices of early warning agencies of the countries. Satellite broadcasts can be downloaded even in places where electricity is unavailable.