In Ghana, most farming techniques are passed on through the family and within the community. Few farmers have formal agricultural training or use modern techniques. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Ghana and some NGOs are working to remedy this issue. The challenge with agricultural extension is that it needs to be done at scale, while being customized to each farmer’s crop choice and location. Mobile-based engagement offers both scale and segmentation.
UNEP DTU Partnership (UDP) is working with Votomobile, a mobile communications company and the local partner responsible for the implementation of the DANIDA funded ADMIRE project, which can help farmers withstand and become resilient to climate-related shocks. The tailored, interactive mobile phone-based curriculum, also called a ‘Farmer Calendar’, is based on a farmer’s location, crops, growing season, and current climate events. The project aims to develop a baseline curriculum, establish partnerships with related services, like mobile phone providers, the national weather service, and local radio stations, and also create a sustainable financing model. The service saves farmers time and money, helps them plan harvesting, learn about agricultural news, and negotiate prices without needing to travel long distances or rely on word-of-mouth, thus, improving the overall yield and profitability of each participating farmer’s operations. The crops involved are maize and rice, though there is an intention to extend the curriculum to cocoa, a crop that will be negatively impacted by climate change — particularly relevant, as Ghana is one of the largest cocoa producers, globally.
UDP has worked to identify, evaluate and select projects that fit within the ADMIRE objectives. Through their funding and support for the implementation of the mobile phone-based curriculum, the ADMIRE project and Votomobile have successfully completed several original objectives. In particular, the curriculums for maize and rice have been developed together with a sophisticated mobile phone platform necessary to deliver the messages to farmers throughout the country on a regular basis. Today over 3,500 farmers subscribe to the service and benefit from timely and accurate information they otherwise could not access.
With UDP’s oversight, ADMIRE’s support to the project is expected to continue until June 2017. In the coming months, Votomobile will focus on documenting impacts of the service with existing customers. The immediate overall objective is to extend the service to 20-30 thousand farmers in the next 1-2 years. This will guarantee the financial sustainability and platform for further expansion of the project. It is expected that the curriculum will be continuously developed and updated, and that relevant partnerships for on-going operation and development will be established, in keeping with the fundamental objective of the ADMIRE programme.