Due to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, gatherings of more than 5 farmers at a time were not allowed. In October 2015 FairMatch Support contacted the Wageningen University Science Shop to explore alternatives for conventional training for cocoa farmers in Sierra Leone. This initiative resulted in the design and the development of a prototype Digital Farmer Field School (DFFS) called ‘Kusheh na minem Fatu en mi na koko farmer’ (Hello, I am Fatu and I am a cocoa farmer).
Digital Farmer Field School
The DFFS facilitates interaction between farmers in groups and trainers in the back office. Farmers provide and consult information that is exchanged on a tablet and contact trainers in the back office for support with the same device. This innovative interaction model is based on audio visual contents and fits the needs of illiterate farmers. The development of the DFFS coincides with a broader debate regarding the effectiveness of current training models for farmers producing for the global market. The DFFS enhances the position of both female and male famers to play a more autonomous role. Their training is based on their specific needs.
Cocoa farmers successfully introduced
In January 2016 the DFFS prototype was tested by FairMatch Support and Wageningen University (WUR) in the Kenema and Kailahun district in Sierra Leone, the first area of the Ebola outbreak. Jula, a local Business Development Service and partner of FairMatch Support, was responsible for organizing the testing of the prototype. Farmers showed a keen interest, a high level of motivation and ability to use the DFFS. A promising sign is that farmers used all the functions of the DFFS. They made phone calls about farms issues with the back office. They used the DFFS to take pictures of diseased cocoa pods and discuss pest and crop management amongst themselves and with Jula trainers.
On Friday April 8th the WUR report on developing and testing the DFFS prototype was presented at the FairMatch Office to Mohamed Fofanah, director of Jula. Download the Science Shop report ‘A Digital Farmer Field School for training in cocoa production and certification in Sierra Leone’ at project site of the Science Shop: http://www.wageningenur.nl/nl/project/A-digital-farmer-field-school-.htm
The further development and implementation of DFFS application is ongoing. In the coming years FairMatch Support is aiming to develop the protoptype of the DFFS in collaboration with like minded partners into an operational new tool for farmers extension.
Short film about testing the DFFS prototype with Jula