Considering the physical distancing measures which could widely impact the functioning agriculture extension systems, extension workers might find it challenging to move to villages to gather farmers for training and other activities like capacity building.
The limited social interactions and movement restrictions will hinder livelihoods and the agricultural supply chain as access to inputs and extensions support services by the already vulnerable famers and their communities is affected.
This also creates opportunities for digital tools to better serve farmers, as well as adapted to assist public health responses and prepare for new agricultural needs that arise while the pandemic present many challenges.
This provides opportunities for farmers to take advantage of the interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform devise to help the agricultural sector in Nigeria. As government and other organizations are increasing the application for digital tools and introducing innovations to provide technical assistance to famers from distance.
The platform which is compatible with the basic feature and android phones, allows the target audiences to receive re-recorded messages to real-time.
Deploying Digital Tools for Agricultural Extension Support.
Solidaridad, an international civil society organization said, it devised the IVR methods to support agricultural extension in Nigeria and other West African countries during the Covis-19, they said it would increase access to agronomic and other production support information by farmers and communities that produce cocoa, palm oil, and other food stables.
Isaac Gyamfi who is the Regional director for solidaridad in West Africa said the platform is an important part of a remote support approach that helps Solidaridad to quickly access ground situations to generate response plans and interventions.
He explained that the platform would address the issues of restrictions and movement and limited interactions while noting that the organization is operating in five continents through eight Regional Expertise Centers.
He added, At this time when physical interactions are less desired, the IVR platform helps us to reach out to a large number of our program beneficiaries quickly to share important information on COVID-19 protection protocols and to deliver other technical crop production content with the farming season and the cropping calendar.
Virtual Training Of farmer's Experience In The Use Of Digital Tool.
Head of the digital solutions of the organization Ahmed Basit, speaking further on the use of IVR platform and other digital tools, explained that the organization used the platform in 2019 to transmit messages on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to over 40,000 farmers, producers and workers under the next Generation cocoa Youth Program.
This was funded by the MasterCard Foundation, and the second phase of the cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Program (CORIP II), was funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Ghana according to him.
Basit said they have been applied in Ghana, Cote dívoire, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the organization is promoting sustainable practices across the cocoa, Gold and palm oil supply chain, while explaining further that the tools are not new to Solidaridad in West Africa.
We also deployed mobile data collection tools to profile 60,068 cocoa farmers, 19,627 palm oil farmers and 1,056 miners in the operational countries.
It also serves as a baseline for current and future programs whose impacts and outcomes would be tracked using the Interactive Voice Response platform. The data is used to support the creations of markets for potential small and medium enterprises.
He said with over 60,000 cocoa farmers already subscribing to the voice application platform, the organization would continue to maintain contact with project beneficiary’s during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added, a total of 39,000 farmers are using the platform. The IVR platform provides Solidaridad and partners real-time feedback on farmers experiences, learning and practices for additional intervention where needed.
Local Communities Stepping Up COVID-19 Awareness.
Dutch based organization said since March 2020, it has used the IVR platform to sensitize 28,557 beneficiaries on the importance to practice social distancing and other precautionary measures to prevent infection and contain the spread of the virus.
The awareness campaign was noted in Ghana which were culled from national directives and the World Health Organization (WHO) guidance, where translated into Twi, a local language spoken by many of the communities where Solidaridad currently functions.
In Sierra Leone, Solidaridad is supporting the government to step up public awareness of COVID-19, in partnership with the ministry of health and sanitation through its District Health management Teams.
The platform has supported the production of relevant information, education and communication materials for dissemination to over 20,000 farmers in 300 local communities in the country.
Its Gold program in Ghana, the organization has also embarked on a sensitization campaign to educate eight village Savings and Loans Associations, six project mines and mining communities of measures to control the spread of the Corona-Virus.
Sustainability For Other Digital Tool.
While reiterating its commitments to innovation in the use of a digital classroom and other virtual tools to train small and medium enterprises and other foundations, we well as government ministries, department and agencies.
We welcome partnerships with the investors and foundations, as well as government ministries, department and agencies to scale the use of digital innovations in support of vulnerable producers and enterprises to grow as the world adapts to the new reality of physical distancing.
The organization said, with the support from donors and partners such as Netherland Government, MasterCard Foundation, the European Union (EU), Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), World Bank, Henkel, Achmea, Mondelez International, and many other private sectors, it has been able to respond to the needs of beneficiaries at this critical of COVID-19.
Additionally, we are fast tracking the development of a digital self assessment tool for small scale gold miners to educate the in responsible mining practices.
The Organization has so far profiled some 1,000 miners in Ghana for pilot use of digital tools.
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