In September 2012, TTC established a cooperation with ADS-Nyanza (Anglican Development Service) as part of the Connect4Change consortium. The partnership set up an agricultural education program in two Southwestern counties of Kenya. Between September 2012 and June 2015, sweet potato and passion fruit farmers in the counties of Homa Bay and Migori were addressed with text messages and voice prompts that provided them with information needed to face local challenges and to enhance productivity and sales. In 2014, an evaluation was conducted in order to answer an important question: How did the text message service of TTC contribute to enhancing the productivity and sales by sweet potato and passion fruit farmers in Kenya’s counties of Homa Bay and Migori?
Agriculture: key to Kenyan GDP
According to the World Bank, Kenya will soon be one of the fastest growing economies of East Africa. One of the thriving factors in this growth can be agriculture: farmers provide half of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, smallholder farmers are still facing significant challenges. Only 20% of the Kenyan land is suitable for farming and many farmers lack the modern seeds or technology that are needed or don’t have access to adequate financial services. In the meantime, the Communications Authority of Kenya has reported that Kenya currently has 34.8 million mobile phone subscribers, representing 78% of the population.
Closing the information gap
TTC and ADS-Nyanza considered this a powerful opportunity to close the gap in access to agricultural information for smallholder farmers. The partnership created an information tree that enabled farmers to access a variety of information specific to the needs of sweet potato and passion fruit farmers, either via text messages or voice prompt. Farmers’ forum meetings were used by ADS-Nyanza to train the target group on the use of text or voice messages and next, 4.500 farmers were sent messages concerning technical production information, disease control information and many more topics. When in need for more information, the farmers could make use of the interactive aspect of the program and send a text message with their request.
Evaluation of the program
To evaluate the effectiveness of the mobile messaging campaign and to find out how TTC can improve future programs, interviews were conducted with participating farmers. A large majority of the farmers experienced an increased amount of crop harvested and 71% of the surveyed farmers reported an increase in sales. All farmers indicated that they appreciated the mobile messaging component of the information program and continuation of mobile messaging was requested by many farmers. Practical suggestions for improvement of the program were a crucial part of the evaluation. Several recommendations were provided by the farmers, such as improving the exit strategy within the program and adding specific information on how to deal with passion fruit blight in the Migro country. The output of the evaluation was shared with ADS-Nyanza to ensure that the opportunities for improvement could be used by the partner of TTC as well.
In conclusion, the results of the evaluation have given the partners fruitful insights into the effect the program had on the farmers and into opportunities for improvement. As the mobile messaging program was successful in increasing farmers’ access to agricultural information, TTC hopes to have contributed to the improvement of the overall livelihoods of farmers in Homa Bay and Migori.
You can read the complete report on the project here: mAgriculture_Evaluation_ADS_TTC_FINAL 004.
All photos courtesy of ADS-Nyanza