- The scale and scale of digital transformation has meant that distance learning is increasingly being adopted.
- Leveling the playing field for non-connected farmers ‘access to learning tools can be done through digital training of farmers’ trainers.
- Digital tools can also complement conventional personal learning to increase accessibility and create an engaging learning environment.
- Localized use of technology can be used for effective learning.
Globally, technology is evolving rapidly. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the shift in digital transformation as more companies, governments and civil society have conducted distance learning using digital tools to increase efficiency and scale delivery.
These achievements have profound implications for access to skills and capacity building. But what about farmers and coffee producers in Benin, Nigeria and Central America, for example, who may not have smartphones or Internet access? Is there another way to reach them through accessible content and learning the latest agronomic methods of using cashews or good agricultural machinery?
TechnoServe programs have demonstrated the powerful potential of distance and digital learning to help address poverty. For example, we were able to help store owners in Nairobi learn to keep records through a mobile learning management platform & WhatsApp; we helped entrepreneurs in Honduras get mentorship via Skype, and farmers in Puerto Rico get trained in agronomy from a video on YouTube.
However, we understand that not everyone can instantly undergo online training. For example, only 28% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa uses mobile internet, and the rural population worldwide is less likely to have a smartphone or a stable internet connection than their urban counterparts.
So how can we help ensure that unconnected farmers don’t miss out on the opportunities provided by developing learning tools? To answer this question, we have compiled a report that identifies three approaches to using technology to improve farmers ’learning without an Internet connection, backed by TechnoServe’s research and expertise in this area.
Digital training of trainers for farmers
While farmers themselves may not have access to a smartphone, the teams that train them often have. Traditionally, extension staff and other field teams are trained in person, and if these coaches need a course resumption or need to study a new addition to the curriculum, they should attend another physical activity.
However, by creating a digital training course for coaches, we can notice a greater consistency when field teams update their knowledge on the go. They can easily transfer training programs to employees of government expansion services, cooperatives, procurement and others when they run out, maintaining a sustainable effect.
In Benin, this approach allows farmers to receive information more consistently and in a better time. For example, the country’s recently rewritten manual on field training in cashew production and nursery management includes the latest best agricultural practices. The CajùLab program is now developing a curriculum that comes with a smartphone-based learning platform to help farmers effectively learn new content.
Extend learning through audio and video
Video is a powerful tool for educating farmers: research has shown that it can improve training and adoption practices, help increase the number of farmers covered and improve the consistency of messaging, while facilitating the work of trainers. It also creates additional effects, as farmers often like to tell other people what they have learned in the video.
But what about farmers who can’t access videos online? In these cases, a low-tech approach to adding video and audio offline to full-time learning can be very effective.
In Nigeria, the Business Women Connect program worked with female tomato farmers in northern Nigeria who did not have access to telephones. To make the training more interesting and accessible for participants, almost all of whom combined running their household with significant homework, the program viewed training videos in local classrooms and community centers using projectors, reinforcing techniques learned during personal training. at demonstration sites.
Farmers liked that it gives more flexibility. For example, because the videos were shown in their communities rather than on more remote demonstration sites, they could bring their children to classes.
The program team also received feedback that participants were motivated by seeing women like themselves speaking the local language and coming from their region, presented in the video. One participant, Rahan Umaru, commented that they admire the women they see in the video: “If they show us the video, it pleases our hearts, and we told ourselves we would do it like in the video.”
When designing any training program it is important to start with the needs of the users and constantly test, evaluate, adapt and improve.
-Dave Hale, Director of TechnoServe Labs, TechnoServe | Katie Finnegan, Head of Global Programs, TechnoServe
Meet the farmers where they are
Basic communication technologies, such as a functional phone, can still be a powerful tool where farmers do not have access to smartphones or mobile internet. SMS, voice messaging and integrated voice response (IVR) services can effectively reinforce practices, push and answer farmers ’questions. There is also a solid evidence base for using radio programs to support learning and behavior change.
However, the combination of these tools gives the greatest effect and provides personalized two-way communication. For example, in Central America and Peru, the MOCCA program uses a variety of techniques to encourage coffee growers to adopt climate-friendly and renewable farming practices.
The program’s technical and communication teams work together to develop a content strategy to reinforce key messages across multiple channels that farmers have access to. These include text messaging, WhatsApp chat groups, radio stations, Facebook live sessions, short videos on YouTube and personal training where possible, all within a structured integrated curriculum.
Of course, it’s not just the approaches you use, but also the way you use them. When designing any training program it is important to start with the needs of the users and constantly test, evaluate, adapt and improve.
By combining good design practice with these approaches, we can ensure that millions of farmers around the world are not left out of the opportunities offered by digital transformation.