Encouraging Good Agronomic Practices for Cocoa Farmers in Ghana
Updated: May 17, 2022
Cocoa Life is led by Mondelēz International, and CARE is a key implementing partner in Ghana.
Through a partnership with CARE, Talking Books were used to strengthen Cocoa Life agricultural extension activities in Wassa East District
In 2021, CARE International in Ghana used the Amplio Talking Book to deliver information on sustainable agricultural practices to cocoa farmers in the Western Region. The information and communication technology (ICT) intervention was part of CARE's Cocoa Life extension project in Wassa East District. Cocoa Life is a global cocoa sustainability program led by Mondelēz International with other implementing partners, and CARE Ghana is an anchor implementing organization in the district.
CARE's cocoa extension activities are conducted in collaboration with the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (known as COCOBOD). To support their work, Amplio Ghana partnered with CARE Ghana and CHED to create the audio content to go on the Talking Books, conduct technology training sessions, and deploy 114 Talking Book devices in the field from October to December 2021.
The project directly benefited 57 cocoa farmer groups, reaching over 4,500 farmers and their families across 16 communities. To learn more, we spoke to Emmanuel Gyarteng, CARE Ghana's project manager for agricultural extension activities in Wassa East, and Toffic Dapilaah, Amplio Ghana's monitoring and evaluation officer.
A Talking Book training session for community animators in Wassa East District.
Why did CARE decide to use Talking Books for Cocoa Life?
EMMANUEL GYARTENG: The Talking Book was engaged to ensure consistent and accurate dissemination of technical information to cocoa farmers to increase their knowledge and skills in improved agronomic, social, and environmental practices, as well as their adoption of new practices and behaviors. The ability to share extension messages in locally spoken languages helps to enhance teaching and learning.
The Talking Book helps to reach large farmer groups, which helped to improve the farmers’ extension ratio in the district. Farmers can listen and learn in their leisure, at convenient times, and also have the source material for reference. The device was also used as an extension delivery support tool to build the capacities of community animators in the absence of the community extension agent.
For this project, you used the Ghana Cocoa Board’s Manual for Cocoa Extraction as the source material. How did you go about producing the audio content?
TOFFIC DAPILAAH: CARE gave Amplio Ghana the COCOBOD training materials and we prepared the scripts. After CARE approved them, we traveled to Dabouse to record the audio content. We worked with CARE field volunteers and COCOBOD staff to record the messages in two languages, Akan and Ewe. At the same time, we also recorded the system prompts. The Talking Book can be customized for any language, which is important when working in rural areas.
What topics did CARE Ghana's Talking Books include?
TOFFIC DAPILAAH: The topics included site selection and preparation, cocoa nursery and planting, weeding, pests, and diseases control, post-harvest management, and storage practices, plus child labor and climate change messages.
Did you use any other communication tools?
EMMANUEL GYARTENG: Yes. We also used Cocoa Health and Extension Division training posters.
For its Cocoa Life project, CARE used extension training posters as well as Talking Books.
Toffic, can you describe Amplio Ghana's training approach?
TOFFIC DAPILAAH: We used a train-the-trainers approach. The training was attended by seven CARE staff and 104 community animators. Due to the number of participants, we conducted four sessions — for Krobo, Atobiase, Akutuase, and Abroadziwuram zones — to ensure effective learning and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Participants were trained on how to turn on/off the device, the functions of each key/symbol, how to select and listen to a message, how to pause the device, how to record their questions and feedback, and other functions. Under CARE supervision, the animators then conducted field-level training with their farmers' groups.
Community animators received training on how to operate the Talking Book device.
The farmers listened to Talking Books during their meetings. With the built-in speaker, one device works for a group of about 20 people. Some communities received more Talking Books because they had both Akan- and Ewe-speaking farmers.
What was the biggest challenge with the Cocoa Life project?
TOFFIC DAPILAAH: From an Amplio perspective, the timeframe was short, only three months, and that prevented us from updating Talking Books in response to some of the questions raised during the project. When we looked at the user feedback, a lot of the messages were expressing gratitude for the information. Farmers also asked questions about fertilizer application, record keeping, and various cocoa diseases. Some people also had concerns about child labor issues and government oversight.
Overall, Talking Books were well-received and helped CARE reach more farmers with key information. The user feedback showed that people are hungry for information.
Talking Book user feedback provided insights about farmers' challenges and successes.
Emmanuel, what impact did the Talking Book make?
EMMANUEL GYARTENG: We saw a 27.1% increase (male 30.6%, female 22%) in the number of farmers directly participating in Cocoa Life GAP training, an increase from 1,292 (769 men and 523 women) to 1,642 (1,004 men and 638 women). But other farmers in our operational zones also benefited from the teachings. Most of the Talking Book messages were aired through local Community Information Centers for the general consumption of all community members. More than 3,000 farmers (approximately 2,900 men and 1,100 women) indirectly benefited.
Overall, farmers reported that they increased their yield by 10-20% due to the timely harvesting of cocoa pods, as pods were not allowed to overripen. Overripe pods hasten beans germination in the pods and reduce chocolate flavor and result in weight loss of the beans which eventually affects harvest and yield.
As an extension support tool, the Talking Book helped build capacity for community animators.
Was there a message or a topic that made a significant impact?
EMMANUEL GYARTENG: Messages about Integrated Cocoa Pest and Management (ICPM) made a considerable impact. Most farmers are actively adopting practices such as timely pruning and protecting their cocoa trees against pests and other diseases. These practices have helped farmers not to wait and rely on government support and interventions as they used to do in the past years.
Interestingly, the message on Child Protection had the highest listening rate, and communities are ensuring that children of school-going age are enrolled in schools.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
TOFFIC DAPILAAH: It was inspiring to support the improvement of cocoa farming in Ghana. Cocoa continues to be the backbone of the Ghanaian economy, and working to improve knowledge and crop yields helps to directly improve our economy.