SMALL-HOLDER farmers in drought-prone areas have benefitted from digital farming guidelines sent on their mobile phones in a programme jointly co-ordinated by the Agriculture ministry and a local non-governmental organisation, Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP).
BY MUNESU NYAKUDYA
The $72 million programme is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for international Development (DFID) and is being implemented in Mutasa, Makoni, Mutare, Gokwe South, Kwekwe, Shurugwi, Guruve and Mt Darwin districts to address specific needs for smallholder farmers.
Speaking during a media tour of the projects in Kwekwe last week, LFSP information communication technology officer, Tawanda Hove, said the digital extension programme had five strategic arms, the SMS extension, Kurima Mari application, videos, WhatsApp chat groups and audios.
“The SMS platform is where the Agriculture ministry sends out daily messages to farmers regarding markets, production nutrition and weather updates. The whole idea is to bridge the communication gap between the government extension arms and the farmers,” Hove said
Previously, there would be one extension arm to 1 100 farmers, which is not feasible for an extension officer to cover.
Hove said the SMS platform enabled farmers to ask questions without physically seeing the extension officer.
“The Kurima Mari application works both on and offline. Key information is uploaded on this platform, for instance market information, which guides farmers to make informed decisions and select markets better and be more competitive as smallholder farmers,” he said.
“There is also quite a lot of literature for any value chain, which farmers can access on the application to produce more efficiently. We are also producing education videos. In these we demonstrate the new good agricultural practices implemented in other parts of the country.
“We have created ward-based WhatsApp groups administrated by government extension officers, where farmers can discuss pertinent issues in the presence of someone, who has the technical know how. Lastly, we distribute audios with important information, some of which has not been aired on national radio.
Through LFSP farmers have been taught different effective ways of rearing small livestock such as rabbits, ducks, broilers, goats, as well as farming different kinds of crops