Getting good information to farmers can be a challenge at the best of times in Ghana, where extension agents have hundreds of farmers to reach over huge distances. But it’s a challenge both Farm Radio International and the Government of Ghana are working together to solve.
In Ghana, extension agents are employed by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, known colloquially as MoFA, to travel to farming communities to advise farmers on the latest agricultural information. They keep farmers up to date on farming techniques and technologies, and advise farmers on any challenges they might be experiencing in their fields.
Still, it’s not always easy to reach farmers. Many live down washed out roads and on any given day might be at the market, or tending their fields when an extension agent stops by.
Additionally, every extension agent in Ghana is responsible for informing nearly 2,500 farmers, according to MoFA. That means they might not make it back to a community for a long time.
“That is a herculean task for any extension officer to do,” said Theophilus Osei-Owusu, director of the Directorate of Extension Services in Ghana.
A new path for extension
A new agreement between Farm Radio International and the MoFA and the Directorate of Agricultural Extension Services in Ghana, aims to change that.
Farm Radio and MoFA will be working together to create a high-quality digital agricultural advisory service that connects farmers with agricultural extension agents through the use of radio and mobile phone technology.
“Once we employ the use of radio and other digital tools we should be able to bridge this gap together,” said Theophilus.
Radio allows extension agents to reach thousands of farmers at once and on a regular basis — farmers they might not be able to reach more than once a year in person. Call-in programs also allow the agents to answer any specific questions the farmers may have.
The agreement sets out how Farm Radio and MoFA will collaborate in the development of a strategy for sustainable, nation-wide digital agricultural advisory services.
Radio stations will serve as digital agricultural advisory hubs, hosting extension agents, in this case known as “Digital Advisory Officers,” and creating long-term interactive agricultural radio programs reaching farmers over the airwaves. Other value chain actors, including private businesses and support along the way will also be involved.
Working together for food security
“It’s really a landmark agreement for us and it spells out the ways we will work together in developing strong digital agricultural advisory services,” said Kevin Perkins, Farm Radio’s executive director. “Radio and other ICTs together can provide the majority of farmers in Ghana with the important information and advisory services that they need.”
Theophilus said that the agreement was an important step in getting improved technologies to small-scale farmers.
“With these technologies and innovations they should be able to do what they are doing better, produce more, sell more and then improve their livelihoods.
“In that way they will also be contributing to our country’s food and nutrition security.”