Tablet-Based App Enhances Data Collection and Extension Services

In northern Ghana, the USAID-funded ADVANCE project boosts maize, rice, and soybean production, improves value chain actors’ access to markets and finance, and strengthens local capacities. In partnership with the Grameen Foundation, ADVANCE is piloting the Smartex App, a tablet-based solution that provides extension services to project farmers and enhances data collection.

In the latter part of 2015, the project trained 36 outgrower businesses (OBs) that support 2,300 smallholder farmers in the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions. They learned how to use the tablets and the SmarTex application to assist in trainings and data collection. ADVANCE will train an additional 120 OBs to access the service; they, in turn, will provide the service to 12,000 famers in the pilot’s first phase.

Each OB receives a tablet, a pico projector, and a speaker. Interactive protocols on extension service, in video and pictorial form, are pre-installed on the tablets. They are tailored to farmers’ knowledge level. OBs will show these protocols to smallholder farmers using the pico projector and speakers. ADVANCE expects that these tools will widen the project’s reach to include both project and non-project farmers.

The app can also track a community’s progress as it moves from good agricultural practice (GAP) trainings to setting up demonstration farms. Throughout the season, trainings and field days will draw upon information on the tablet.  When the harvest comes, another survey will be made available on the tablet that will track the behavior change, adoption practices, and actual yields that will then be compared against the baseline and easily transferred to the next season. To make the system sustainable, ADVANCE encourages those farmers reached by the tablet-based extension services to repay the services with a half a bag of produce.

Nucleus farmer Prince Danso has received a tablet and explains that, “The tablet is really helping me. I train my farmers (239) and others on good agricultural and post-harvest handling practices (land selection and preparation, row planting and spacing, appropriate fertilizer application, as well as pest and weed control) using the videos on the tablet, which I show with the pico project. It also helps me keep records of my farming activities so I can follow the progress I am making. In addition, with the tablet, I take photos of my farmers’ field so we can discuss what we observe in them during training. I thank ADVANCE so much for this opportunity. I am now an ‘ICT farmer.’

ADVANCE also uses the tablets to collect data, replacing manual farmer registration traditionally done with pen and paper. Previously, these forms, attached with farmer photos, would be manually re-entered into the system at the project office. But now, by collecting, entering, and uploading data in one step, the tablet saves time, effort, and errors. Further, the M&E unit is assured that less information will go missing or contain errors. Better data collection will help the project focus on where and how to plan future trainings.