In Ethiopia, in partnership with Amplio, the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) introduced the Amplio Talking Book (ATB), a digital solution for sharing agronomic information with farmers. The pilot launched in 2020, when 1,260 (30% women) farmers from the Angacha and Ana Sora districts received ATBs with 16 pre-recorded messages on regenerative agriculture, nutrition-sensitive agriculture, and market-oriented agriculture. The battery-operated ATB serves as a “radio” that also supports the collection of user feedback and enables SAA to modify its programming in near real-time – with the ultimate aim of improving productivity through increased access to extension information.
Access to technology and innovation is vital to improving productivity, in which farmer training and extension systems play a pivotal role. To address the gap in the extension worker-to-farmer ratio in Africa, the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) promotes e-extension through a number of tools, including a Digital Classroom System (DCS), radio programs, mobile phone-based services, and the Amplio Talking Book (ATB).
In 2020, SAA partnered with Amplio (https://www.amplio.org/) to pilot ATB, or “Sasakawa Radio” as farmers called it. The device is used to provide extension and advisory services to farmers, especially those who have low-literacy. The battery-charged ATB is an on-demand audio-enabled device that can operate as a standalone radio. The device can receive feedback and tracks usage statistics, enabling experts to identify opportunities to expand or modify program content in near real time. To fit the rural context, the ATB does not require access to the internet or electricity. The information is also given in local languages.
The pilot project was implemented in the Ana Sora district of the Oromia region and Angacha district of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s (SNNP) region of Ethiopia. A total of 1,260 smallholder farmers (30% women) were organized into 42 groups with ATBs that contained 16 different pre-recorded messages on regenerative agriculture, nutrition-sensitive agriculture, and market-oriented agriculture. Farmers listened to the messages, on topics such as soil fertility management, in groups.
Field monitoring revealed that 231 (68 women) farmers, including 69 (21 women) youth, listened to the messages on the ATB. Usage statistics collected from 28 ATBs showed that messages on regenerative agriculture were played for 79 hours (22 entireties/completions), with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) being the most listened to at about 54 hours. The usage statistics collected from 26 ATBs showed that the nutrition-sensitive agriculture messages were played for 32 hours. Fifteen messages were listened to until completion 389 times, of which harvesting operations followed by harvesting equipment were the most attended messages.
In a survey carried out in Ana Sora and Angacha districts in Ethiopia, 87% of the 60 farmers interviewed preferred ATB over other e-extension technologies promoted by SAA because the radio is accessible anytime, anywhere.
After experiencing the technology’s utility, one farmer said, “If we get Sasakawa Radios (Talking Books), we might need less frequent visits from extension agents.”
As of August 2022, 1,954 adult farmers (571 women) and 544 youth (157 women) farmers received training in regenerative agriculture and nutrition-sensitive agriculture through ATBs, leading to increased knowledge of extension information.