Case Study Agriculture


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Case Study Agriculture

  1. 1. Providing Farmers Literacy Bridge’s Talking Book Project with Access to Agriculture Case Study: Upper West Region, Ghana Information SUMMARY Today, millions of families depend on farming for survival. Subsistence farmers hope to grow enough crops to feed their families and rarely have enough to sell for income. In the Upper West Region of Ghana, Literacy Bridge’s Talking Books enable these families to access on-demand information from local agriculture experts. Within one season, farmers have produced substantially greater yield using practices they learned through the Talking Book. Increasing Subsistence-Level Crop Production with the Talking Book INTRODUCTION And without income, it is difficult to pay for expenses such In January 2009, Literacy Bridge began its initial pilot as children’s school fees, basic school supplies and program in the rural Upper West Region of Ghana. uniforms. Agriculture experts from Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture recorded a series of targeted lessons, including techniques for dramatically improving crop production Using Literacy Bridge’s Talking Books, using locally available materials. The lessons were Ghanaian agriculture officials record recorded with one of Literacy Bridge’s Talking Books and lessons on how to properly sow and fertilize copied from one device to another throughout the remote seedlings and care for livestock. This village of Ving Ving. Similar to many rural communities information is available on-demand to across Africa and Southern Asia, 97% of residents are farmers and is passed freely from device to illiterate subsistence farmers. device, and from village to village. Talking The Talking Books had an immediate impact within the Books are delivering affordable access to community. Anthony Dery, a 40-year old farmer supporting knowledge in regions without electricity. a wife and four children, was one of the first people to use a Talking Book. After listening to several agriculture lessons, he reconsidered the farming practices he had THE CHALLENGE learned from his grandparents. In rural Ghana, as in many regions throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, many families depend on subsistence farming as a primary source of food. Electricity is completely unavailable, and children often spend more time tending crops than attending school. As a result, approximately 40 percent of Ghana’s adult population is totally illiterate. At the same time, subsistence agriculture accounts for over 35% of the gross domestic product and employs the majority of Ghana’s work force, mainly small landholders.1 To help local farmers, Ghanaian government officials provide training on how to maximize crop yields through Anthony Dery Farmer, Upper West Region, Ghana proper seed spacing, planting and fertilization techniques. Rural communities, however, are often separated by In most of the past years, Anthony barely grew enough nearly impassable dirt roads; visits by agriculture officials food to feed his family. In a typical growing season, his to any given village are infrequent, typically one or two family harvested two bags of corn, two bags of millet, eight times per year. During these short visits, residents ask bags of peanuts and one bag of beans. Yet, like millions of many questions and are flooded with valuable information. subsistence farmers around the world, Anthony was Yet, because illiteracy is so prevalent, few farmers can unable to grow enough food to sell, which is necessary in write down information for future reference. order to generate even limited income. email: PO Box 1256 Seattle, WA 98111-1256
  2. 2. Providing Farmers Literacy Bridge’s Talking Book Project with Access to Information THE SOLUTION THE RESULTS Literacy Bridge’s Talking Books are low-cost audio The Talking Book project provides subsistence farmers computers, designed to quickly disseminate information with new strategies for maximizing their crop production device-to-device over great distances and across rugged within one growing season, including: terrain. Information is easily and freely copied via built-in o Planting seeds in rows of raised soil. This method of USB cables, and can be played back later through a sowing seeds produces greater crop yields than headset for individual learning or through a built-in speaker planting individual seeds in single mounds, as many for group discussion. farmers have done in the past. o Implementing a crisscross tilling pattern. Rows of “One of the great things about the Talking raised soil effectively create gutters for run-off, which Book is the amount of corn its lessons can ultimately wash away entire crops during rainy enabled me to harvest this year. I normally season downpours. A crisscross tilling pattern ensures even watering and minimizes run-off. produce about ¼ of a bag of corn from a o Identifying specific signs in diseased livestock so sick single plot of land. The same piece of land animals can be separated out from the herd. Most this year has produced more than a full subsistence farmers in Africa keep some domestic bag… over four times my normal yield.” animals such as poultry, goats, and at times, cattle. -Anthony Dery o Keeping livestock in a pen at night to collect their Farmer, Upper West Region, Ghana manure for fertilization and improved crop production. Talking Books are designed to be produced for under In the spring of 2009, Anthony Dery and other farmers in US$10. They allow users to record and play 40 hours of Ving Ving used a portion of land to implement new audio messages through a fully customizable audio menu. techniques in accordance with Talking Book lessons. All instructions are audio based, so there are no Results to date have been dramatic, and Anthony has accompanying printed materials. Talking Books are harvested over four times as much corn from a single plot portable, durable, and powered by locally available of land as compared to nearby land he farmed at the same batteries, so they are ideal for areas without electricity. time using traditional practices. The following images show the dramatic contrast between traditional farming vs. crops cultivated using practices described on Talking Books: Traditional Farming Literacy Bridge’s Talking Books By placing detailed, on-demand information into the hands of farmers, and by taking advantage of their movements between communities, Talking Books minimize the time Farming with Talking Book Lessons and effort, spent by overtaxed agriculture extension agents Literacy Bridge continues to seek out partners with to affect behavior change in their local farmers. powerful, locally applicable, knowledge to share with people throughout rural regions of the world. 1 Center for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa: