By Susan Mwape
Farmers in Malawi have been introduced to a new way of acquiring agriculture information - interactive voice recording tool. The National Agriculture Development Committee introduced an interactive voice recording tool that enables farmers to access information on agriculture services.
A joint team of Agriculture experts called the National Agriculture Content Development Committee (NACDC) begun a process of content development for farmers through Interactive Voice Recording (IVR). The Idea was to aggregate content onto one platform where farmers could find information covering extension services such as acquisition of seeds, crop harvest and marketing.
Deputy Chief of Party, Strengthening Agriculture and Nutrition Extension. Dr. Clodina Chowa informed delegates at the INGENAES global symposium of the joint effort by Agriculture sector partners in Malawi managing the process. Dr. Chowa narrated how Agriculture and Nutrition partners have joined forces and begun the process of harmonising agriculture content using Information Communication Technology (ICTs).
As a member of NACDC, Dr. Chowa shared the methodology of harmonising agriculture content at the INGENAES global symposium. The NACDC procedure commences with holding consultative meetings with stakeholders where topics are selected including costs and timeframe. During the stakeholder meetings an agreement is arrived at on the content sources before the commencement of Technical message development (Fact Sheet) process commences.
After the fact sheet is developed, it is translated into local languages and before being subjected to a technical team of subject - matter experts for validation and later approval. The messages are then recorded into audio and also translated into local languages. They are then pre tested in the communities for assessment of the language used and also flow and coherence.
After community validation they go through stylization of the IVR content where issues of message packaging whether the audio information should be monologue or dialogues for instance. The process is concluded after the messages are pretested in the communities and later Monitoring and evaluation is undertaken to assess impact, explore areas for improvements and additions to the overall.
Although the major challenge for the project has been keeping pace with the changing environment in updating content at times when there are disease outbreaks, the project has recorded a number of success stories. Dr. Chowa indicated that the project has managed to raise the profile of mobile phone usage among the rural communities where most farmers are able to use their mobile devices for more than just phone calls.
The project has also increased the demand for extension services such that more farmers are able to go and request for additional information through the messages relayed through the recordings.