COVID-19: Solidaridad deploys digital tools to support farmers in West Africa

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By Anayo Ezugwu

AS the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage economies, Solidaridad, an international civil society organization, has deployed Interactive Voice Response, IVR, platform to support farmers in West Africa. The platform is expected to increase access to agronomic and other production support information by farmers and communities that produce cocoa, oil palm and other food staples.

Isaac Gyamfi, regional director, Solidaridad in West Africa, said the platform was compatible with basic features and android phones. According to him, it allows the target audiences to receive pre-recorded messages in real-time. He noted that the platform 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 programme 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,” he said.

Gyamfi, in a press statement made available to Realnews, said the full toll of COVID-19 on agriculture was yet to be reckoned more fully. He regretted that the restrictions on movement and the limited social interactions have strained livelihoods and the agricultural supply chain. He stated that this pandemic has interrupted access to inputs and extension support services to already vulnerable farmers and their communities.

On his part, Ahmed Abdul Basit, head of digital solutions, Solidaridad West Africa, noted that the Interactive Voice Response platform and other digital tools are not new to Solidaridad. He said that in West Africa, they had 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.

According to him, 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 Programme, MASO, — funded by the Mastercard Foundation, and the second phase of the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme, 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 programmes, 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,” he said.

The statement said that since March 2020, Solidaridad had 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. It stated that 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 programme 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.

“The organization 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 for 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,” it said.

– May 20, 2020 @ 12:55 GMT |

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