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Arusha | Jun-14 | Energy for Agricultural Innovation


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A digital learning platform for strengthening agricultural extension services for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa Claudia Canales, Max Marcheselli; Tumaini Elibariki; William Mwakyami; Jon Knight; Ross Taylor; Erik Childerhouse

The workshop in Arusha explored the East African/Tanzanian environment for village energy, local case studies, challenges and opportunities, with a view to formulating policy recommendations for policymakers, funders, NGOs and other stakeholders the region. An important part of the workshop, and indeed the whole Smart Villages initiative work programme, was to gather evidence from existing projects that have provided or facilitated sustainable off-grid energy solutions in the developing world.The workshop gathered more than 50 experts, including policymakers, NGOs, off-grid energy entrepreneurs and others to look for solutions to providing energy to villages off the grid.

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Arusha | Jun-14 | Energy for Agricultural Innovation

  1. 1. Energy for Agricultural Innovation A digital learning platform for strengthening agricultural extension services for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa Claudia Canales, Max Marcheselli; Tumaini Elibariki; William Mwakyami; Jon Knight; Ross Taylor; Erik Childerhouse; Email:
  2. 2. Biosciences for farming in Africa (B4FA) Activity 1 – Novel publication and web site Activity 2 – Journalism course in plant breeding technologies Activity 3 – Scoping studies on how to strengthen agricultural extension services for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa Aim: encourage dialogue and promote a better understanding of the available options for improving agricultural productivity in four African countries – Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria and Uganda. Focus: plant genetics technologies (traditional and modern) Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre (MCSC) and the Cambridge Malaysian Education Development Trust
  3. 3. Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa • Main source of employment in rural areas: food and income • Largely practiced at the subsistence level • Rate of adoption improved crop varieties much lower than in the rest of the world • Productivity in African countries is well below the global average Increasing agricultural productivity key development goal for poverty reduction and increased food security
  4. 4. Agricultural value chains • Increasingly knowledge dependent • Increasingly energy dependent ENERGY FOR KNOWLEDGE: Pilot project set to determine if a Digital Learning Platform on mobile devices can be deployed (offline) to add value to existing initiatives delivering agricultural extension services to smallholder farmers in East Africa
  5. 5. The Digital Learning Platform Developed by the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre (MCSC) and the Cambridge Malaysian Education Development Trust to teach English, mathematics and public health to children and adults in Malaysia and India • Multilingual, very robust data management system easy to administer anywhere in the world • 70 interactive activities (online) • Supports text, audio, image and video files • Records user data (individual log in required) and tracks progress through time • Deployed online on computers and on/offline on mobile devices
  6. 6. Case Study: FARM Africa Sesame Production and Marketing Project • Sesame: suited to semi-arid conditions; high and stable market demand • Improved varieties released by Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Tanzania. • FARM Africa project: 1) distribution network of improved seeds 2) trainings on best practices for production 3) linkages to markets; marketing training
  7. 7. Challenges of traditional training methods • Scaling up of traditional training programmes beyond 10,000 farmers prohibitively expensive • Efficacy of training depends on the degree of preparation, and on level of commitment and talent of individual trainers • Inclusion of farmers’ perspective technically difficult and expensive Aim of pilot: obtain proof of principle of suitability of the DLP to deliver agricultural extension services to rural communities
  8. 8. B4FA/Farm Africa Collaboration (Sep 2013) Endadoshi Kakoi Magara Endagile Babati Babati Dareda Project sites: 4 off-grid villages in Babati District, Tanzania • 2 villages trained on tablets: 5 contact farmers/community agents (CAs) and 1 extension agent/village. Each CA to train 50 farmers • 2 villages traditional training (demonstration plots)- 5 farmers/ village
  9. 9. Project components: 1. Development of a modular course on sesame production and marketing (English and Swahili). All materials (images, videos, audio) developed locally with the involvement of the farming community 1. Development of the back-end application to increase off-line functionality in mobile devices and cope with intermittent internet connection during updating 2. Delivery of the course Baseline level of knowledge determined, and demographic and socio-economic data recorded (with users’ consent)
  10. 10. Module 1: Land preparation Module 2: Planting Module 3: Plant care Module 4: Harvesting Module 4: Post- harvesting Module 5: Marketing Sesame production digital course Cultivation practices Post-harvest management and marketing Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Land preparation Selection of seed variety Soil testing Credit Planting Thinning Weeding Crop nutrition management Plant care (pests and diseases) Harvesting Drying Storage Sorting and grading Record keeping Market analysis for better prices Production planning Aim: deliver information when it can influence decision making
  11. 11. First tablet training with contact farmers (community agents CAs)- Nov 2013
  12. 12. The education-entertainment model Very ancient form of knowledge sharing (traditional fables aimed at social change) Very effective means of communicating We value entertainment in its own right Increases ownership of project Ngarenairobi field trip: cinema set up by Mobisol customer
  13. 13. Sesame song competition, Endadoshi Farmer Day Competition entered by 3 traditional music groups (over 20 people each), 3 rappers/hip-hop singers from Babati, and a man who composed a poem Assessed on content (recommended sesame production practices) and artistic merits- cash prizes Very high attendance of event
  14. 14. • Project evaluation underway (knowledge retention and uptake of recommended practices) • Further modules to be developed: marketing & value addition; farming as a business; conservation agriculture; integrated pest management For a scale-up project: • Power source (now 6 km walk) • Connectivity (mobile Internet) • Business model for sustainability: establishing a functional reward system for CAs (eg. linking the provision of education to aggregation of sales as a business opportunity; subscription) Next steps
  15. 15. Advantages of the digital learning platform: • Timely delivery of information • Availability of modules for repeat viewing • Easier for women to access information (flexibility of timing to view the course) • Locally generated resources/teaching materials: ownership of course • Local knowledge can be easily incorporated. • Administration system allows determining who is using the course, and how successfully • Information can be targeted to specific users (gender, geographic location, language) • Tablet can be used as portable demonstration plot
  16. 16. Challenges: • Local logistics (energy, connectivity, transport, etc.). • Success dependent on commitment of individual CAs • Information delivered needs to meet actual demand of users • DLP currently linked to one economic activity- high risk (dry year) • A good business plan is required for scaling up the project and ensuring sustainability • Access to knowledge only one part of the puzzle: enabling policies required (eg. financing, energy, infrastructure, access to markets)- integrated approach required