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Training workshops to boost uptake of mobile apps for farmers

August 24, 2015

A massive increase in access to mobile networks and ownership of mobile devices has opened up new opportunities for agricultural and rural development (ARD) in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. But while mobile applications (m-apps) can play a critical role in improving livelihoods for smallholder producers, the number of people actually using them to their full effect remains very low. On the supply side, many agricultural field officers are poorly equipped to access promising ICT solutions that could improve production and postharvest services. 

As part of a programme aimed at exploiting the potential of m-apps in the ARD sector, and boosting take-up among value chain players, CTA has supported two training workshops in Ghana.  The events were staged by local partner Farmerline, as part of the CTA programme Enhancing institutional and grassroots ICT capacity to influence ARD policy processes and value chain development, an initiative that is seeking to raise awareness and improve enabling conditions for the  use of ICTs for agriculture.

A Ghanaian social enterprise, Farmerline offers mobile services designed to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers through access to timely and relevant agricultural information, such as weather alerts, best farming practices, financial tips and market prices. The enterprise will host a total of twenty m-apps training workshops in Ghana, across six regions, under the CTA activity Apps4Ag Learning Opportunities. 

Hands-on learning

The first two workshops, held in late July, offered training and hands-on experience to a range of potential users, including smallholder farmers, extension officers, monitoring and evaluation staff for agribusinesses, NGOs and government agricultural officials. Participants learned how to access and use key agricultural information services and mobile applications to improve farm productivity, communication and market access. A follow-up service will ensure that users can put into practice the ICT skills acquired during the training sessions. 

“For CTA, capacity strengthening of our agricultural stakeholders in ACP is a prerequisite for advancing food and nutritional security, and reducing poverty. We are therefore leaving no stone unturned with the advent of the mobile technologies,” said Benjamin Addom, Programme Coordinator for ICTs at CTA. “This series of training events is about breaking down the barriers to effective adoption and use of ICT applications for agriculture.”

One workshop, which took place on July 30 at Asesewa, in the Upper Manya District of Ghana’s Eastern Region, was attended by 36 farmers and leaders of farmer-based organisations (FBO), as well as by 14 extension agents. A total of by 24 smallholder farmers and agricultural field workers took part in the second workshop, which was held on July 31 in the La-Nkwantanang-Madina Municipality, Greater Accra Region.

Farmers and field workers 

At each training session, farmers and FBO leaders were shown how to use Farmerline’s voice messaging platform, learning to receive voice calls on good agronomic practices, weather alerts and other messages, as well as to interpret and apply the content received. Meanwhile, agriculture field workers were taught how to send voice calls to groups of people, conduct a voice survey using the Farmerline web platform and collect data for effective project monitoring and evaluation.

Both farmers and agricultural support staff were enthusiastic about the results: “The information received from the Farmerline platform can improve the knowledge of farmers on their daily farming activities,” said livestock and crop farmer Telemachus Osae Okyere, who attended one of the workshops. 

Added Field Officer Hillary Alagbo: “The training was very educative and I have been exposed to a lot of new technologies that will make my work easy.”

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