Solidaridad Deploys Digital Tools for Agricultural Extension Support to Local farmers

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Solidaridad Liberia has introduced digital tools to help provide information from farmers and partners about agronomic activities involving the production of cocoa, oil palm, and other food supplies.

Using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform, Solidaridad, an international civil society organization, is increasing access to agronomic and other production support information by farmers and communities that produce cocoa, oil palm, and other food staples.

Part of the COVID-19 restriction is to do distant communication now rather than close or face-to-face communication and for that interviews and ceremonies that require people to come together are done through teleconference.

The platform is compatible with the basic features of android phones. It allows the targeted audience to receive pre-recorded messages in real-time. It is an important part of a remote support approach that helps Solidaridad to quickly assess ground situations to generate response plans and interventions.

“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 that aligns with the farming season and the cropping calendar”, says Isaac Gyamfi, Regional Director for Solidaridad in West Africa.

Experience in the use of digital tools in virtual training of farmers

The Interactive Voice Response platform and other digital tools are not new to Solidaridad. In West Africa, they have been applied in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, where Solidaridad is promoting sustainable practices across the cocoa, gold and oil palm supply chains.

In 2019, the organization used the IVR platform to transmit messages on Good Agricultural Practices to over 40,000 farmers, workers and producers under the Next Generation Cocoa Youth Program (MASO) — funded by the MasterCard Foundation and the second phase of the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Program (CORIP II) — funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Ghana.

Solidaridad also deployed mobile data collection tools to profile 60,068 cocoa farmers, 19,627 oil palm farmers, and 1,056 miners in the operational countries. The data is used to support the creation of markets for potential small and medium enterprises.

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 IVR platform provides Solidaridad and partners real-time feedback on farmers’ experiences, learning, and practices for additional intervention where necessary.

With over 60,000 cocoa farmers already subscribing to the voice application platform, Solidaridad would continue to maintain contact with project beneficiaries during the pandemic.

A total of 39,000 farmers are using the platform,” says Ahmed Abdul Basit, Head of Digital Solutions at Solidaridad West Africa.

 Stepping up COVID-19 awareness in local communities

Since March 2020, Solidaridad has used the IVR platform to sensitize 28,557 beneficiaries on the need to practice social distancing and other precautionary measures to prevent infection and contain the spread of the virus. In Ghana, the awareness campaign messages, which were culled from national directives and the World Health Organization guidelines, were translated into Twi, a local language spoken by many of the communities where Solidaridad currently operates.

In Sierra Leone, Solidaridad is supporting the government to step up public awareness on COVID-19. In partnership with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, through its District Health Management Teams, Solidaridad 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.

Through 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 on measures to control the spread of the virus.

Other digital tools for sustainability

According to Solidaridad, it will continue to innovate in the use of a digital classroom and other virtual tools to train small and medium enterprises and other community facilitators who are engaged in data collection. In this effort, Solidaridad welcomes partnerships with development investors and foundations, as well as government ministries, departments, 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.

Additionally, the organization is fast-tracking the development of a digital self-assessment tool for artisanal and small-scale gold miners to educate them on responsible mining practices. The organization has so far profiled some 1,000 miners in Ghana for pilot use of a set of digital tools.

Support from donors and partners

In West Africa, Solidaridad’s work is funded by the Netherlands Government, the MasterCard Foundation (MCF), and the European Union (EU), the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the World Bank (WB), Henkel, Achmea, Mondelez International, and many other private sector companies.

Certainly, Solidaridad could not have done all these alone.  The organization is grateful for the support of all development and implementing partners as it works to respond to the needs of beneficiaries at this critical time of COVID-19.

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