Building smallholder farmers through Digital Agricultural Extension: A Farmerline & AGRA-led Digital Extension Project, in collaboration with other partners.
Alhaji Mustapha Gariba, a farmer in the Northern Region of Ghana was unhappy about his crop yield. He knew he must have done something wrong. Maybe he misapplied the fertilizer or did not plant the right seeds. Whatever he did wrong affected his yield and he lost almost 40% of his crops. Getting timely agricultural information was difficult and this was affecting his crop yield and ultimately his livelihood.
Alhaji Gariba and other smallholder farmers are facing an ever-changing world; Improved seeds have replaced seeds that worked in the past, and climate change, soil degradation, and changes in weather patterns have made it necessary for timely responsive support.
Alhaji could no longer rely on historical calendars and generational knowledge to be able to be productive. To be able to make a profit Alhaji needs timely, accurate agronomic information from extension officers. This information will help him plan the crop season and also budget adequately. The annual visits from extension officers needed to be more.
Digital Agriculture Extension Solutions.
As mobile technology use increases, farmers like Alhaji Mustapha can now have a platform where extension officers can send fast, timely and informative agronomic tips in order to be empowered to achieve economic freedom.
.The rapid spread of mobile phones presents new opportunities to help farmers access quality agricultural information. In December 2021 The Digital Extension Project, an AGRA, USAID-funded project was implemented. The purpose of the project is to close the technology gap and ensure smallholder farmers receive relevant support. This initiative will also provide a means and tools for Community-Based Advisors ( CBAs) and Agric Extension Agents (AEAs) to be able to venture into many agribusiness opportunities. The use of digital extension technologies supports farmers by providing cost-effective tailored solutions to improve the access and use of information.
The main implementing partners are Farmerline Ltd, Catholic Relief Service Ghana, The Hunger Project, MOFA DAES and Advans Savings and Loans Ltd. The project is aimed to facilitate access to mobile phones, digital-ready extension materials and a means to monitor the use of the devices and dissemination of technologies through Farmerline’s Mergdata Platform.
Now farmers through the Digital Extension Project can increase crop productivity through access to digital extension, and practical knowledge to increase their capacity.
“The benefits of going digital are numerous and this project seeks to enhance last-mile access to digital technologies for smallholder farmers to bridge the gap of the digital divide”. Regina Richardson (AGRA)
Training Sessions for CBAs and AEAs
In conjunction with The Hunger Project Ghana, Farmerline organized 5 sets of training across the middle belt region of Ghana, namely Bono and Bono East. A total of 481 CBAs and AEAs were trained over a period of 5 days. 983 devices to be used by CBAs and AEAs in extension services through Mergdata were distributed through implementing partners. To make the devices accessible it was discounted from 2,095 to 524 GHS which was a discount of 75%. Powered by Mergdata these Mobile devices will equip the CBAs to profile farmers and help digitize farmer data. CBAs can connect farmers to markets, inputs and other services.
From 6th of February, 2023 to 15th February, 2023. 5 new sets of training were organised by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for 491 CBAs and AEAs in the Northern part of Ghana, specifically; Gambaga, Yendi, Sawla, Bimbila and Nanto. With 983 devices available to the CBAs the project is expected to reach over 600,000 farmers. The use of Mergdata technology and mobile phones allows for low-cost, timely and customised information dissemination at scale while increasing staple crop productivity for smallholder farmers and the capacity of smallholder farming households and agricultural systems to better prepare them to make more impact.