Nearly 96 percent of the global population has a mobile phone, and farmers – about 1.3 billion worldwide – are among the most active users. With such a broad reach, it is no surprise that CropLife Asia saw an opportunity to reinforce its stewardship messages with a mobile phone app and text messages. Raghavan Sampathkumar, stewardship director at CropLife Asia, tells us more about what’s “app-ening” for Indian farmers and how texts amplified stewardship efforts in Indonesia.
Q: What is the mobile phone app in India?
CropLife Asia recently partnered with an Indian tech firm, RML Information Services (RML), to customize a phone app called MyRML for Indian farmers to get easy access to agricultural information on Android smart phones and feature phones. By combining current technologies and insights in mobile outreach, this app puts CropLife Asia stewardship materials into the hands of 1.4 million farmers in 50,000 villages across 18 states in India.
Q: What resources does the MyRML app offer?
The MyRML app already provided farmers with commodity prices, weather, agricultural news and insights as well as crop advice from pre-sowing to harvesting to selling. Sensing the opportunity to add stewardship information, CropLife Asia – through CropLife India – provided relevant materials like posters and videos for the advisory section of the app. MyRML “speaks” nine languages, and has information on 450 crop varieties, 1,300 markets and 4,000 weather locations. For farmers with smart phones, apps are a great way of distributing information.
Q: How did CropLife Asia connect with RML?
We were looking at new ways to reach stakeholders so I called up RML about partnering to distribute our stewardship messages. This app already had a knowledge library so CropLife Asia simply added its resources for free to RML’s platform. It’s only been a few months since these resources became available to farmers, so we have not yet measured the impact but I can’t wait until we do! Mobile technologies are growing fast and they can boost our efforts alongside traditional, in-person training to make a greater impact.
Q: Are there other ways CropLife Asia has used mobile phones to reach farmers?
Yes. In 2012-13, CropLife Asia joined forces with 8Villages, a non-governmental organization working on agricultural development themes in Indonesia, to pilot sending key stewardship messages to farmers. 8Villages distributed them through text messages to nearly 600 farmers in five villages in the Karawang region of Indonesia.
Q: What were the results of the 8Villages program?
Pre- and post-texting surveys showed farmers improved their knowledge on most topics after they received stewardship messages, particularly on avoiding insect resistance by rotating active ingredients, distinguishing pests from beneficial insects during spraying, how to wear and properly clean protective equipment and clothing, spraying to the side of crops instead of on top of them and identifying counterfeit products.
Q: Is mobile messaging the future for stewardship
Using mobile messaging is a certainly a cost-effective way to reinforce traditional methods of stewardship training, serving as a reminder, an extra push, of what farmers learn during hands-on training about integrated pest management and the responsible use of crop protection products. But we cannot use mobile messaging in isolation – it is great as a reinforcement to traditional modes of training, not a replacement.
Q: Are there plans for additional mobile phone
campaigns in Asia?
Learning from the projects in India and Indonesia, several CropLife Asia member companies are already using their own mobile platforms to advise their farmer networks. We have also recently licensed and developed the BeeConnected phone app from CropLife Australia to help connect farmers and beekeepers in India. Technologies like phone apps and text messaging are handy and simple. The agricultural industry must continue to adopt these advancements to make a greater difference in farmers’ lives.