GIZ, ECOM Ghana mitigate impact of Covid-19 on farmers with voice tech

The impact of Covid-19 has left dire consequences on the economic livelihoods of many countries around the globe.

But a GIZ advocacy technology introduced at the peak of the pandemic has assisted more than 3,000 farmers with preventive protocols through an interactive voice response message.

The platform established by the Sustainable Management Service (SMS) of Cocoa Merchants, ECOM, cushioned farmers in over 200 remote farming communities in Ghana against the impact of Covid-19.

The spread of the Covid-19 virus was met with skepticism, especially among rural dwellers in Ghana. The impact of the pandemic has left many economies around the world struggling.

To mitigate the impact of the disease on the health and economic livelihoods of smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana, leading cocoa merchants, ECOM, through GIZ established a Covid-19 advocacy technology.

The voice messaging tool employed an interactive voice response mechanism to facilitate the dissemination of Covid-19 health protocols and safety measures to farmers.

Managing Director of BISA technology, Reindorf Owusu, says “the farmers were receiving Covid-19 preventive messages for 36 weeks. This relevant message was in the local dialect, where the farmers better understood the education on COVID-19. They didn’t need any WhatsApp, they received it as a phone call.”

The project was implemented in 208 communities with over 5,000 beneficiary farmers.

At the end of the one-year project, more than 50% of the target rural farmers have adopted the safety measures.

Programmes Manager for SMS, Francis Ahiamatah, says “using these new methods, adoption was pegged at 50%. In the industry, adoption and behavioural change you have to target about 50% averagely. And we were able to achieve more than 60% adoption. This indicates that this is the way to go using technology,” he said.

With less public sensitisation in most remote communities, the farmers say the telecommunication technology came in handy.

“In the advent of Covid-19, most of us didn’t know much about the disease. So we mostly did not heed the safety protocols.

“But when the education came, you’ve been able to apply these preventive measures in our daily lives. It has saved most of us,” one of the beneficiaries, Paul Armah, acknowledged.

The GIZ/SMS project is a public-private partnership anchored under the develoPPP programme of GIZ Ghana and implemented on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

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