IVR Messaging & the Renaissance of Congolese Coffee

Written by: Jennifer Henderson, Viamo and Rob Hamilton, ÉLAN RDC 

With smallholder farmers representing upwards of 80% of DRC’s cocoa and coffee producers, access to information about best agricultural practices and treatment methods is critical. To tackle this challenge, ÉLAN RDC, a UKAID market systems development project implemented by Adam Smith International, is providing farmers with free agronomy and business advice through the 3-2-1 Service (1-5-5 in the DRC).

The 3-2-1 Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Service in the DRC offers free on-demand access to information in five local languages to all ~12.4 million Vodacom subscribers. The service particularly targets isolated, low-literacy users who own or have access to basic mobile phones. This year alone more than 589,000 unique subscribers have accessed the 3-2-1 Service in the DRC, and 3.3 million key messages have been listened to since the service launched in March 2017. The 3-2-1 Service averages about 100,000 unique callers per month, and 80% of callers are repeat listeners.

Recognizing the value of players at all levels of the value chain, ÉLAN RDC’s technical teams worked closely with industry associations, exporters, and agronomists to develop content for the 3-2-1 Service. The content was also approved by local committees which include partners from the public and private sector, and government authorities. Viamo then used our latest content stylisation tools to create key messages that include all three essential elements for social and behavior change communication: a key piece of information, an explanation of why the information is relevant to the caller, and an action the caller can take or a behavior they should adopt. For example, one of our key messages is: “To control pests, it is important to deal with infected pods adequately. Infected pods can contaminate other trees and ruin your entire plantation. First, it’s best to use different tools to deal with infected pods because they can help spread the diseases. Otherwise, tools can be disinfected with soap or fire. Also, always cut healthy pods before cutting infected pods. Finally, burn or bury infected pods and cover them with ash or lime.” Viamo also adapted the messages for the voice channel and made them accessible to a wide audience in 4 local languages (Lingala, Tshiluba, Kikongo, Swahili) as well as French.

In addition to tracking listeners of these messages using advanced platform analytics and real-time dashboards, Viamo and ÉLAN RDC’s monitoring and results measurement team will also be running several rounds of mobile surveys in the coming months to track how smallholder farmers’ practices change as a result of listening to these coffee and cocoa messages.

The key messages on best practices in cocoa and coffee production and post-harvest treatment were launched on the 3-2-1 Service in coordination with Saveur du Kivu, DRC’s premier specialty coffee cupping competition and annual forum for international supply chain stakeholders. Saveur du Kivu and Congolese coffee are on the rise thanks to coordination between producer groups (cooperatives), the national government, international technical assistance and donor communities and global coffee buyers.

Through another ÉLAN RDC initiative, international buyers can now also directly source ever increasing amounts of high-quality Congolese coffee using the Congo Coffee Atlas, an interactive online tool developed with Eastern Congo Initiative. With the dashboard, global buyers can filter by zone, certification, quality and volume, further strengthening Congolese coffee’s link to international markets.

With systemic changes in how farmers access information, through the 3-2-1 Service, and how they access international export markets, ÉLAN RDC is well positioned to make a significant contribution to the renaissance of the Congolese coffee sector.

Based in the U.S. and curious about the 3-2-1 Service in the DRC? Call +1 617 249 7427 to hear all current content, or visit our website.