Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change for Vulnerable Populations
Climate change is already disproportionately affecting smallholder farmers, with increased uncertainty of rainfall altering traditional farming cycles and decreasing crop yields. Agriculture extension services are limited and it is estimated that 95% of smallholder farmers in Ghana, who make up the vast majority of the agriculture sector, do not have access to reliable information to improve farming practices and yields.
To enable Ghanian smallholder farmers to mitigate increases in poverty and hunger due to climate change, Viamo partnered with UNEP DTU as part of the ADMIRE project from June 2015 to July 2017, providing agricultural extension services to six thousand semi-commercial smallholder farmers via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to close the information gap.
Participants were identified through local value-chain actors representing financial institutions, NGOs and outgrowers. Viamo then provided weekly mobile extension services on agronomy best practices, market prices and linkages, and reliable weather updates in local languages. The messages focused on maize and rice, two of the most consumed staple crops in Ghana, as well as cocoa, the main cash crop. This was the first opportunity for many farmers to acquire new technical information and knowledge about agricultural practices, which was then used to make informed decisions about farming practices and adapt their behavior to improve yields.
The results show that the provision of mobile agricultural extension services led to improved yields and prevented losses for farmers who adopted the new, promoted methods and techniques, compared to those who did not have access to the mobile service. Pre and post project surveys indicated a 30% to 80% increase in yields per acre, which translates into USD $75 to $125 per acre in revenue. This resulted in an almost 30% increase in disposable income (between USD $34 to $88 per farmer), a significant and impactful amount for families living near or below the poverty line.
A smallholder farmer from Ejura said that the information provided via mobile helped him “to know when to plant, when to expect rains, when to apply fertilizer and other chemicals.” He added that “you sent us [weather] updates, and true to that there were rains on the following Sunday as announced. If not for your updates, I would have lost everything.”
Since the completion of the ADMIRE project, several value-chain actors have continued to offer the mobile extension services to their clients. Currently around 25,000 farmers use the mobile services. Moreover, Viamo has added much of this information to our 3-2-1 Service so that it is available nationally and for free to any Vodafone subscriber in Ghana. This project demonstrates the measurable, sustainable, and scalable impact of mobile agriculture extension services for smallholder farmers affected by climate change.