For farmers in the world’s poorest and hardest to reach communities, information about farming techniques is essential. Agriculture is a major source of livelihood, but many rural farmers still rely on rudimentary farming methods. Too often, the critical information that could help rural subsistence farmers increase their crop yields, raise healthier livestock, and feed their families is virtually non-existent.
Learning new agriculture skills and knowledge is critical to survival and well-being. But many rural, off-the-grid communities lack access to life-changing agriculture information. Because of bad road conditions and remote locations, many villages do not have regular visits by agriculture extension agents. Even when an agent can reach a village, the up-to-date farming techniques shared are often lost shortly after that agent leaves because wide-spread illiteracy makes note-taking impossible.
TALKING BOOKS GIVE ILLITERATE FARMERS ACCESS TO NEW SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE
In 2009, Amplio piloted a Talking Book agriculture study in the Upper West Region of Ghana. A village was selected that met the criteria of our target population: low literacy rates, widespread poverty and malnutrition, a lack of electricity, and no internet access.
Photos: After listening to agricultural information on the Talking Book, Felix decided to plant his fields using both his old farming methods (above) and the new practices he learned, so that he could see for himself. For the first time, Felix used animal manure (“drops”), which made a significant difference in crop growth (below).
Relevant, practical audio messages and information about sustainable farming methods were created in partnership with local government agencies and non-government agencies and recorded in local languages. Content was loaded onto Talking Books, which were distributed in the community, allowing the farmers and their families to select and replay messages as often as they wanted.
The result? Significantly higher crop yields for farmers who listened to Talking Book: a 48% increase in production! Farmers, who previously weren’t able to produce food enough to feed their families, reported growing enough to feed their families and generate income to pay for vital services such as school and health insurance.
COMMUNITY PROFILE FOR A TALKING BOOK PROJECT IN GHANA
970 people in 98 households
Adult education level
77% never attended school
100% subsistence farmers
Maize, beans, groundnuts, millet, guinea corn, rice
Agriculture extension visits
Once a year
Access to technology
10% owned radios; 1.5% owned mobile phones. Weak reception of a single GSM network available in some parts of the community. No data service
READ THE STUDY
Schmidt C., Gorman, T.J., Gary, M.S., and Bayor, A.A, (2011) “Impact of Low-Cost, On-demand, Information Access in a Remote Ghanaian Village.” Information Technologies and International Development, Vol 8, Issue 2 (Special Papers from ICTD2010)
women farmers improve farming, financial literacy
Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) has used Talking Books to educate more than a thousand lead farmers in Ghana through the Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project. The women farmers use Talking Books to learn and share critical information with their families and peers about agriculture, gender, nutrition, finance, buyers and suppliers, and more.
“The radio sometimes talks about things that are not useful to us, but we cannot ask the people inside there to switch to a different topic. . . . With the Talking Book, we decide what to listen to and when to do that. All the topics are useful,” says Hillia Kazie, a farmer in Kohuo.
You can learn more about our work with women farmers in Ghana in MEDA’S August 2018 edition of Marketplace magazine. The article illustrates how the Talking Book can improve gender equality in remote agricultural communities.
RECOGNIZING EXCELLENCE IN FARMING
Every year on National Farmer’s Day, Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture gives awards to the country’s best farmers. We are thrilled to report that in a country of over 25 million people, Ghana’s Best Soybean farmer was a woman, Stella Porekuu, who learned from the Talking Book! This is the first time a Talking Book farmer won on a National level. On Farmer’s Day, women who learned from the Talking Book won awards at the Regional level as well as each District level. Below are pictures of Stella and two of the many farmers who have learned from Talking Books, the best male and female farmers of the Jirapa District.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“I learned about good agricultural practices and certified drought resistant crops with short maturity days from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture messages. Listening to the Talking Book has given me to the knowledge to improve my production this year, learn best practices, and win this award today.”
“There were many things on agriculture that I didn’t know until I received this device (Talking Book) and listened to its messages. I have gained knowledge that has helped me improve and also win this award as District Best Farmer. I hope this program will be extended to other communities.”
Braole Felix describes the impact of agricultural development lessons that he has learned from the Talking Book.
Fidelis, a program officer for Amplio’s affiliate Literacy Bridge Ghana, interviews award-winning farmers who attribute their success to Talking Books.
A Literacy Bridge Ghana program officer interviews Talking Book users who won six of the eight district awards on Ghana National Farmers Day.