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Mobile Technology and Improved Sesame Cultivation

 

Executive summary

Farm Africa provides smallholder farmers with the knowledge, expertise and information they need to sustainably grow their incomes. We regularly test new ways of doing this, continually seeking to increase the benefits of our work on the ground. A recent pilot project in northern Tanzania tested the use of tablet computers to create ‘mobile demo plots’, as a cost-effective alternative to the conventional farmer field school approach.

Farmer field schools are a common model for bringing new skills and knowledge to rural farming communities. This involves training contact farmers in appropriate agronomic or business skills, then supporting them to pass on their knowledge to other farmers using demo plots at their farms. This can be a highly effective way to reach relatively large numbers of farmers with limited resources, but it is difficult to do at scale and there are some challenges in ensuring timely, consistent and high quality information reaches everyone involved.

The pilot project instead used a mobile learning platform loaded with locally-produced videos explaining best practice for each stage of the production cycle. The tablets were taken around to sesame farmers in their own homes and communities, where they viewed the modules, testing their understanding with inbuilt learning questions.

To assess the effectiveness of the approach, farmers’ knowledge of sesame cultivation was tested before and after taking part in the training and compared to a group trained the conventional way. We found that very similar knowledge gains were exhibited by both groups, but that the tablet training was delivered at around one third of the cost. 

While the initial pilot was relatively small scale and we still have a lot to learn about the opportunities and challenges of using ICT for training, we are very excited by these initial findings. We are delighted to have secured funding from Comic Relief for a new phase of our work in the sesame sector, which will allow us to further test this approach on a larger scale.

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Summary and background

Summary and background

Farm Africa tested the use of mobile technology as a possible alternative to the traditional ‘farmer field school’ approach.

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Current Approach

Current Approach

Many agricultural development projects, including Farm Africa’s, implement a Farmer Field School approach.

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Hypothesis

Hypothesis

The pilot was designed to focus on the knowledge impacts of ICT-based training.

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Results

Results

After the training, the proportion of questions answered correctly in the comparison villages was 71%.

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Comparing the costs

Comparing the costs

The ICT method is estimated to reach farmers at around a third of the cost per head of the demo plot approach.

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References/Acknowledgements

References/Acknowledgements

This paper has been prepared by Farm Africa’s Programmes Department and reviewed and approved for publication by members of our Programmes Advisory Committee (PAC).

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