Librarian + Internet = Better Tomatoes
With the help of free Internet in the local library, a village in Ukraine has doubled its tomato production. The featured library received computer equipment and training through the Library Electronic Access Project administered by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. This video was created for the launch of the Bibliomist Global Libraries program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by IREX.
Tags: ukraine gates computers internet irex tomatoes libraries iatp
Added: 2 years ago
[scene opens with Ukrainian women selling produce (including tomatoes) in the outdoor marketplace]
FEMALE VENDOR: [translated] Very good, 2.50 hryvnyas a kilo!
MALE CUSTOMER: [translated] Doesn't matter how much it costs, as long as it's high-quality product.
FEMALE VENDOR: [translated] They've been grown using modern technology. Drop-feed system has been installed, so each tomato receives microelements, and mineral fertilizers, and water.
FEMALE CUSTOMER: [translated] Where did you read up on that?
FEMALE VENDOR: [translated] On the internet! Went to the library, Olha Petrivna shows us everything, opens everything up, presses buttons, and we just read and copy it.
MALE CUSTOMER: [translated] I'm getting some!
[she puts some tomatoes in a plastic bag and hands them to him]
FEMALE VENDOR: [translated] You won't regret buying them ... sweet from Syn'kiv!
[cut to a man driving a horse and wagon through the town of Syn'kiv, as a female reporter stops him for an interview]
REPORTER: [translated] What are you bringing, tomatoes?
FARMER: [translated] Tomatoes? Sure, there's no way you don't have tomatoes here. Here, take me as example. Fifteen thousand ... That's three greenhouses, so long you can't imagine. Take my word for it. But we here sweat our guts out and survive this way. No other way, no job, where can one earn a penny or two these days?
["Information: village of Syn'kiv, Ternopil oblast. Population: 1120 inhabitants. Specialization: growing early vegetables, tomatoes. Since 2003, due to availability of internet access to village inhabitants, tomato yield doubled." appears on screen, then cut back to the farmer]
FARMER: [translated] We are literate people nowadays. We go to the library, and right there we have internet, too.
[cut to footage of the town library]
FARMER: [translated] Whatever we need, we go there. I'm interested in this or that. First of all ... horses, breed. I'm also interested in machinery, agricultural machinery. I bought one heck of a motor cultivator! On the internet, by the way.
[cut to the female librarian speaking directly to the camera]
OLHA PETRIVNA: [translated] Just seven years ago, the introduction of Internet was a real event for the village. Now more people know, and the youngsters know what Internet is, but back then ... Well, the priest in the church said that representatives from US embassy were coming that day to introduce Internet, so all people came here to see what it is.
[cut to another shot of the librarian]
OLHA PETRIVNA: [translated] And the people say, "Well, Olya, take a look what can be found on that Internet." It was strange for me as well, because I wasn't proficient yet, but we did eventually find stuff about tomatoes. That's crucial, because in January early tomatoes are planted. Bingo! When we saw it, the whole village was talking only about what's on there, what one can learn. That was a surprise for the village! Now it's necessity.
[cut to a young man growing tomatoes in a greenhouse]
TOMATO GROWER: [translated] Now, this is really edible, that's a real product of nature!
[he hands a tomato to the unseen cameraperson]
TOMATO GROWER: [translated] It's a pity you're late! Had you come yesterday, you would have seen the red ones. That's second crop. In summer, we had a lot ... up to thirty tomatoes on a single bush. Before, when we didn't have Internet, we would start picking tomatoes in June, it would be over by the end of June.
[cut to more footage of the greenhouse]
TOMATO GROWER: [translated] Tomatoes would rot, we would pick 'em, that's it. However, thanks to the Internet, that's the result ...
[he points to the tomato plants]
TOMATO GROWER: [translated] They regenerate.
[cut to more footage of the greenhouse]
TOMATO GROWER: [translated] I listen to the radio, they've got same weather everywhere. And Internet shows real weather at our location.
[cut to another shot of the man]
TOMATO GROWER: [translated] See, if it weren't for the forecast, what would we do? Watering tomatoes now doesn't suit the weather, they'd rot.
[cut to the librarian standing in front of a closed door]
OLHA PETRIVNA: [translated] Here's our internet center. Come in, please.
[she opens the door and enters the room, where a young woman is sitting at the computer]
OLHA PETRIVNA: [translated] Hanna Adamivna, what are you busy with?
HANNA ADAMIVNA: [translated] Olha Petrivna, I found a new variety of tomato, and I like it a lot.
[cut to a closeup of the computer screen, as the local version of Google Images (google.com.ua) shows various tomatoes and tomato plants]
HANNA ADAMIVNA: [translated] Last year I had a variety called Sanko, but I didn't really like it because of low yield.
[cut to a website featuring tomato plants, as she scrolls down the page]
HANNA ADAMIVNA: [translated] I plant seven thousand bushes, and the yield was around ten metric tons.
[the camera zooms out to show the two women looking at the screen]
HANNA ADAMIVNA: [translated] As to the variety called Dolphin, this year I got fifteen metric tons.
[cut to a still image of the librarian sitting down at the computer, as "Information: The Internet Center at Syn'kiv village library provides regular services for 142 people - inhabitants of Syn'kiv, nearby villages, and even neighboring Chernivtsi oblast." appears on screen, then cut back to the librarian speaking directly to the camera]
OLHA PETRIVNA: [translated] It's also very important that here it's free, since in raion center Zalishchyky, if you go somewhere to surf the Internet, you have to pay. In the village, people don't have that kind of money to spend it on this.
[cut to footage of young children at a playground]
OLHA PETRIVNA: [translated] Very often students from neighboring villages come here. Our children do, too.
[cut to a young teenage girl speaking directly to the camera]
GIRL: [translated] We can speak about our village with pride because, for instance, there's no Internet in other villages.
["Welcome to Syn'kiv branch library! synkiv-library.narod.ru" appears on screen, then cut back to the librarian speaking directly to the camera]
OLHA PETRIVNA: [translated] Let's unite in our common problems so that we solve them to our benefit, so that we are heard by the state, so that we are paid attention to because we are really needed, especially in the countryside. I'd like to wish every village library to have a computer. In cities it's possible for everyone to have a computer at home and there are various Internet centers operating, but there's nothing in villages, even though Internet centers are necessary in the countryside.
["Our congratulation on Ukrainian Library Day!" appears on screen]
Ukraine online: You've got crop reports!
December 21, 2009 6:00 AM
To promote democracy, the United States is working to get Eastern Europe connected to the 'net. The results are more practical.
By Julia Ioffe, Contributor
When the village of Syn'kiv in Western Ukraine first got a computer with web access in 2003, the local priest encouraged people to come out for the grand opening of the library's Internet center. It had been paid for by the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, and the web access, which was free, was a novelty for this hamlet of 1,100 people.
Since then, however, the residents of Syn'kiv, a town known for its early tomatoes, have used the web to find out more precise local weather forecasts as well as the breeds of tomato best suited for the area and how to grow and fertilize them. In the last six years, this knowledge has helped Syn'kiv double its tomato crop.
Syn'kiv was part of a larger U.S. Embassy push to hook Ukraine, which has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in Europe, to the web.
(Lately, American embassies in the region have been promoting the web as a tool of democracy. In Azerbaijan, for example, the embassy sponsors a project that shows Azeri youth how to be citizen journalists through YouTube. But locals are finding they don't exactly have online freedom of speech: Two bloggers, who held a mock government press conference with a person in a donkey costume, are now in jail.)
In Ukraine, the U.S. Embassy managed to get over 140 local libraries online, and now they have help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which last year committed over $25 million to wire up 1,100 more in a project called Bibliomist, or Book Bridge. The project is currently in the rollout stage and, last month, nearly two hundred Ukrainian libraries applied to get their own Internet centers.
Books and more online
Each winning library, those that are ready and have the local authorities' support (because they are, after all, footing future maintenance bills), will get up to 15 up-to-date computers, training for its staff, and networking equipment that will allow as many as seven local branches to use the same connection. Microsoft (MSFT) is also donating over $4 million worth of software. (Conveniently, all the donated computers are required to run on the Windows Vista operating system.)
"In Ukraine, libraries are seen as cultural institutions," says Colin Guard, who runs Bibliomist through IREX, an international education non-profit. "They are seen as warehouses where culture is kept but little is known about the other services a library can provide to improve the quality of life, like finding jobs or answering healthcare questions."
The hope, Guard says, is to encourage people to use the wealth of information on the Internet to improve governance, improve business and lifestyle, and thereby jumpstart development. So far, the lucky plugged-in libraries have taken a series of initiatives, like posting government regulations and budgets online, or helping blind journalists improve their work.
Sometimes, however, the real victories are in the individual discoveries that Ukrainians make online, like the doctor from Kirovograd who used his library's Internet connection to diagnose his patient with a rare genetic disorder called Brugada Symptom that he hadn't been able to find in any Russian or Ukrainian textbooks. The patient survived.