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100,000 SMS messages sent to help farmers in Tanzania

25 october 2016: CABI is exploring how regular SMS messages of agronomic information impact on the attitudes and behaviour of farmers.  The latest crops to be included in campaigns are cassava and maize. These campaigns have resulted in over 100,000 SMS messages being sent to farmers in Tanzania as part of the UPTAKE project.

Stephanie Gakuo, from CABI explains, “We are working with Farm Radio International, Radio Uhuru and Voice of Africa radio stations in Tanzania to see if ,and how, SMS can support weekly radio programs to change farmer attitude and behaviour. We partnered with the telecoms company Esoko to get our messages out.  We are pleased that the service is now reaching over 6000 farming families.”

Each SMS campaign breaks down the essential information farmers need to know –into around 30 messages. The timing of these messages is coordinated with the weekly radio programs and is linked to the farming calendar.  The messages are based on a technology brief developed with the support of Tanzanian experts including extension staff, input suppliers and researchers from relevant agricultural research institutes.

The cassava campaign ran from July to October 2016, whilst the maize campaign will run from October until early 2017 to cover the Eastern and Southern parts of the country.

Esoko have been using a variety of methods to recruit farmers for the SMS campaign. Together with the district and village-based agricultural officers, they met with farmers interested in growing cassava. In areas where the SSTP program was running they carried out a similar approach, but also involving the SSTP team.

Finally farmers could self-register by texting Jiunge (connect) 0757430314. As an integral part of the process farmers were profiled.

Stephanie continued: ‘The profiling has given us some very useful information. In addition to the contact details we have information on the location, sex and age of the farmers, information on the crops they grow and whether they are members of any farmer’s groups.  All of this helps us to target information to the farmers now and in future campaigns.

The information is not just one way. Farmers in Kibaha, Muheza, Handeni, Kilindi and Mkuranga have been linked to supplies of clean planting materials of improved varieties of cassava.’

35-message SMS campaign 

Key facts about the SMS campaign

  • 108,045 cassava messages sent to 6,044 farming families (30 September 2016)
  • 10,005 maize messages sent to 6536 maize farming families (30 September 2016)
  • 34% of farmers registered are women

The UPTAKE project is part of range of initiatives being developed byFarm Radio International, CABI’s work is part of the Africa Soil Health Consortium program.

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