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Working with phone & data providers

Getting ASHC information on the right lines with private sector phone and data providers 

The Africa Soil Health Consortium has developed a guide on ‘How to… produce farmer-friendly text messages for extension campaigns’. This explored thechallenges of delivery priority agricultural information within the constraints of a text message.

As an example the ASHC team mapped out the messages a farmer would need to support ISFM in maize growing in Northern Ghana. In this case the information became 20 discrete messages based on developing timely communications within the constraints of an SMS Message.

Part of the learning in development of the SMS guidelines sprang from ASHC’s commissioning of Fibrelink Communications Ltd to pilot delivery of agronomic information for maize and other crops on smallholder farms in Kenya. Here an important point of reflection was the quality, utility and appropriateness of messages delivered on a mobile platform.

As the first phase of ASHC comes to a close, a critical point of interest is how to ensure that the detailed knowledge on ISFM reaches the larger number of smallholder farmers.

Mobile delivery platforms present a real opportunity to innovate with content delivery systems that are responsive and guided by good communications principles. This is not just about text but the potential is to add voice communications and, as more smartphones exist,to look at sharing short information films by Bluetooth exchanges which can move audio visual content between phones over very short distances. This peer-to-peer exchange of information issometimes called a viral marketing campaign.

What ASHC can do:

  • Increase access to knowledge and information developed in ASHC by providing it to mobile phone providers
  • Share principles of effective and responsive message design for mobile delivery
  • Learn and collaboratively document content repurposing lessons for mobile environments
  • Identify opportunities for innovations in text, voice and audio-visual messaging including monitoring and evaluation of use and impact

George Oduor of ASHC said: “ASHC is very keen to work with partners to establish the best practice for SMS and voice messaging so we can share this through our networks. We have used the ASHC write-shop approach to generate mobile phone content and it works well.

The nature of mobile phones means there is the potential for huge innovations in the way we receive feedback and monitor subscriptions to message campaigns. This will give us an insight into the issues associated with low literacy, which is still closely aligned to low participation of women in education in many countries. Mobile telephony also gives us opportunities to provide as many language options as are needed at relatively low extra cost.

ASHC has materials relating to ISFM approaches in around 10 different crops and we have a website and newsletter that are perfect to share the learning.”

Anyone wishing to work with ASHC on mobile phone related experiments should contact James Watiti via