Amplio Ghana and Nandom Agriculture Development Unit launch a Talking Book pilot to aid the delivery of agriculture extension and advisory services during COVID-19.

Agriculture extension services are crucial to agriculture development, food security, and livelihoods. But, many farmers struggle because agriculture extension services are difficult to access. Also, rural advisory services may lack modern technologies, approaches, and training methodologies. Weak extension services limit the potential for agricultural innovations and market opportunities. This has far-reaching implications in agriculture and development. The global pandemic, which came with safety protocols, has worsened the situation. Rural extension officers struggle to deliver knowledge and technical training to smallholder farmers. This could increase the food insecurity in developing countries like Ghana.

Smallholder farmer challenges in the Upper West Region

In the Upper West Region, for example, food insecurity is a major problem for most householdl, especially during the lean season. Farmers resort to diverse strategies like purchasing foodstuffs from the market, migrating to find seasonal work, and hunting to supplement their household needs. In Nandom Municipal, the general climate and soil conditions make agriculture production extremely vulnerable. Farmers face yearly challenges such as drought, flood, bush fires, and post-harvest losses. 

According to the Ghana Statistical Service (2014), a majority of smallholder farmers still use traditional methods of farming. Most farmers are highly dependent on rainfed agriculture. Erratic rainfall patterns negatively affect crop production and, in turn, impact household poverty. Dry spells and heavy rainfall during the peak of the farming season lead to poor crop yields and post-harvest losses. Consequently, families often face seasonal food shortages and price hikes.

Recording COVID-19 vaccination messages with Tumu Municipal disease control officer

Talking Books are loaded with local language agriculture extension messages.

NADU Talking Book pilot design and reach

To support the delivery of rural extension services, Amplio Ghana and Nandom Agriculture Development Unit (NADU) have launched a pilot project called “Digital Solution for Effective Agriculture Extension Amidst COVID-19.” Amplio Ghana is working with the NADU to produce and deliver agriculture extension and communication services to help vulnerable, rural communities within the municipality. Our goal is to provide quality agriculture education and technical training to help farmers improve their crop production, food security, and income.

For the NADU pilot, Amplio Ghana has provided Talking Books, technology training, and audio content development. So far, we have distributed 55 Talking Book devices to NADU extension officers and 25 Farmer-Based Organizations (FBOs). Through group listening and discussion, the pilot will directly reach 615 farmers (566 women and 49 men). Also, FBO members will be able to borrow Talking Books to listen with their families, to further spread new knowledge. In total, we expect to reach around 4,400 people.

Because the Talking Book has a built-in speaker, families and groups of up to about 20 people can listen and learn together. The speaker feature also helps extension officers maintain social distancing.

Fidelis Da-Uri (green) conducts a Talking Book training for agriculture extension officers in Nandom.

Fidelis Da-Uri (green shirt) conducts a Talking Book training for agriculture extension officers.

Climate-smart agriculture and technical training 

NADU and Amplio Ghana are producing a series of educational and informational training modules in an audio format to deploy on Talking Books. Topics include climate-smart agriculture practices with a focus on soybean and groundnut production, which are both cash and food crops in Nandom Municipal. Moreover, the cultivation of legumes, along with crop rotation methods, will help enhance soil nutrients. Talking Book messages are recorded in Dagaare, the locally-spoken language. This will help overcome existing language barriers between extension officers and farmers in the municipal.

For the NADU pilot, new knowledge and technical training will be delivered quarterly according to the agriculture calendar. With Amplio’s technology, extension officers can update Talking Books in the field and collect usage data and user feedback at the same time. This qualitative and quantitative data, will help us monitor the project, gain a deeper understanding of local issues and concerns, and use those insights to make content and program improvements for greater impact.   

Fidelis Awonodmo Da-uri is Senior Content Manager for Amplio Ghana. An expert in behavior change communication, Fidelis produces songs, dramas, and interviews about rural development topics, including agriculture, health, gender, and more. He is a frequent guest on his local community radio station.

 

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To learn more about using Talking Books to deliver agriculture extension and advisory services and other educational or training programs, get in touch.

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