Nandom District agriculture extension officers with Fidelis Da-Uri (right).
Amplio Ghana and Nandom Agriculture Development Unit have launched a Talking Book pilot to aid the delivery of extension and advisory services during COVID-19.
Extension services are crucial to agriculture development, food security, and livelihoods. But, many farmers struggle because agriculture extension services are difficult to access. In developing countries, rural advisory services often lack modern technologies, approaches, and training methodologies. Moreover, weak extension services limit the potential for agricultural innovations and market opportunities.
The challenges have 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 food insecurity in 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 households, 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.
NADU Talking Book pilot design and reach
To support the delivery of agriculture extension services, Amplio Ghana and Nandom Agriculture Development Unit (NADU) launched a Talking Book pilot called “Digital Solution for Effective Agriculture Extension Amidst COVID-19.” Amplio Ghana is working with the NADU to produce and deliver agriculture extension messaging and services to help vulnerable rural communities within the municipality. Our goal is to provide better access to 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, audio content development, and technology training. So far, we have distributed 55 Talking Book audio devices among 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). In addition, farmers will be able to borrow Talking Books to listen to with their families, which will help further spread new knowledge.
In total, we expect to reach around 4,400 people.
Fidelis Da-Uri (green shirt) conducts 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.
For the NADU pilot, 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. Our team will deliver new content and technical training 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 the Senior Content Manager for Amplio Ghana. An expert in social and 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. He also plays the xylophone!