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The CKW Project is Going Strong and Reaching for Higher Ground

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Posted on April 17, 2011

Listening to the farmers we serve and the partners we work with, we have over the first 10 months of the CKW program consistently received feedback in the line of; “this is a great program but can we have more?” For instance; the farmers, often echoed by partners in the field ask for more accurate and actionable information, CKWs ask for better presented and digestible information such that they have an easier time explaining it to farmers while partners ask for a variety of options to reach more farmers. We are glad to reveal that in the next few months, we will be expanding the scope of the CKW program to answer many of these requests. 

Growing Stronger in Core Areas

We are happy to note that even as we spread our wings to new areas, we continue to grow in our core areas of operation. With 200 recruited in Kasese and Masindi, our network of Community Knowledge Workers is set to expand to 450 individuals in 9 districts by end of May. The existing network has so far touched 17,312 farming households, serving them with information and advice in 90,283 instances and collecting 7414 mobile surveys. We are also making progress towards sustainability. We are currently collecting data for the World Bank as our first data-only client.

Agricultural call center and USSD service

We are working to establish a call center that farmers will be able to call directly with their questions. This service will be vital both as a referral for farmer questions that CKWs may be unable to answer as well as reaching and serving farmers in areas that CKWs don’t already cover. The call center will be staffed by agricultural experts whose own knowledge will be complimented by our considerable and growing database of agricultural content. We are also developing a USSD agricultural information channel that will be available directly to farmers.

Quality control for information

In March, we convened our first sitting of a content Expert Review Board (ERB) in an effort to verify the accuracy of this content as well as collect views on how understandable and actionable it is. Members of the ERB, who include agricultural experts and a mass communication professional, have reviewed, graded and commented on at least 30% of the information we currently avail to farmers. Reviews center around five areas including accuracy, actionability and presentation/how easy it is to understand. Our team is in the process of improving content in regard to the expert feedback. A major recommendation by the expert was that we need visual cues to make the information more digestible. We have engaged a team from INSEAD to help us visualize our information with images and videos, in addition to growing our content volume itself using their techniques in automatically compiling vast amounts of information from internet sources.

Connecting farmers to real opportunities

We have started developing the software for an application that will connect farmers directly to registered bulk buyers. Connecting smallholder farmers to a wider range of markets is a key objective of our partner, WFP’s Purchase for Progress initiative and central to Grameen Foundation’s objective of increasing revenues. The application will allow farmer to advertise their produce and bulk buyers to sign up for alerts for specific kinds and quantities of produce. We are also exploring options of facilitating the actual transactions between the two parties using the same application. At the same time, we are looking into the concerns of smaller/individual farmers who tell us that even the district level markets for which we currently publish prices are out of their reach because of distance and transportation problems.

Value for CKW Partners

In the month of March, CKWs disseminated 15,781 pieces of agricultural information to rural farmers – undoubtedly a big boost to these farmers who tend to have no access to information otherwise. Interesting to note however is that fact that 41% of this information related directly to WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) Initiative. 91% of our current CKWs were recruited in partnership with P4P. This proves that CKWs are not only an information resource to rural farmers but also a powerful vehicle that can drive adoption of techniques promoted and services offered by the agricultural organizations they are recruited from. In this case, CKWs have been familiarized with the P4P initiative through our trainings, collecting baseline data for the program and participating in field activities like visits to the P4P warehouses and post harvest handling trainings. The result is that they have in turn generated interest and demands for P4P opportunities among their fellow farmers. We are exploring partnerships and technology option to collect and disseminate sub-county level market prices through our CKW network.

Integrating with mainstream agricultural extension

It is our goal that the CKW network will become a mainstream extension service available to farmers nationwide. We are therefore delighted about our March agreement with the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) to conduct a pilot in integrating CKW technology, network and model into its own services and operations. We will be testing the potential value of this integration in 4 districts over a 5 month period. NAADS is also supporting our efforts to establish the agricultural call center.

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