Sprout and the CGIAR Excellence in Agronomy Initiative are partnering to scale research-backed digital advisories for smallholder farmers in Nigeria.

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    CGIAR Initiative on Excellence in Agronomy
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Sprout, a project of Mercy Corps Agrifin, and the CGIAR Excellence in Agronomy Initiative (EiA), have joined hands to unleash open digital agriculture advisory content and precision advisory services for farmer facing organizations (FFOs) and the millions of smallholder farmers they serve across Nigeria.

Sprout will support EiA to digitize deep researched specific value chain agronomic content for Nigeria using human centered design principles. The content will also be in translated in specific local languages. This digital content will then be utilized by Farmer facing organizations (FFOs) in disseminating content to SHFs through multiple channels: such as smart phone-based chat applications (WhatsApp/ Facebook), SMS and IVR technology depending on relevance and channel adoption in Nigeria. This digital content will be high quality, farmer specific with a strong focus on gender specificity and climate smart agriculture techniques. Sprout is also keen to scale its digital weather advisory solution capabilities for Nigerian farmers, enabling them to build resilience against weather risks and better prepare for changing growing patterns.

More specifically, the partnership aims to achieve the following three objectives:

  • Jointly design and develop digital ready farmer learning journeys for high priority crop value chains disseminated through FFOs based on their needs. These needs would define the communication channels such as SMS, IVR or smart phone compatible content, using human centered design (HCD) principles in designing and packaging the content.
  • Sprout and EiA aims to provide weather-based precision agriculture services to smallholder farmers. Sprout will partner with a weather intelligence provider in Nigeria and pilot weather forecasts on the basis of GPS coordinates provided by its FFO partners.
  • Sprout shall also develop other Africa wide content with EiA that can be searched on its Gardian database. EiA will assemble knowledge and expertise from 5 CGIAR Centers, to provide tools, and insights onto the Sprout Platform. These centers include the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT – CSA Agriculture and Bean Agronomy (https://ciat.cgiar.org/pabra/), ICRISAT – Sorghum varieties and agronomy, IITA – Soybean, Cowpeas and Maize varieties and agronomy, CIMMYT – Maize varieties and agronomy and CIP – Potato agronomy.

Mercy Corps AgriFin’s Nigeria Landscape study indicates that currently the country is capturing only a small fraction of its digital capabilities, and this couldn’t be truer in the agricultural sector. It also revealed that Nigerian smallholder farmers are progressively willing to adopt digital tools when offered the right support. It will be repetitive to highlight that smallholder farmers continuously struggle to access readily consumable and timely available extension services and farming best practices. On the other hand, there is paucity of widely available credible and certified digital crop advisory, climate smart and other pertinent information for farmers. With these issues at hand, digital delivery of content becomes imminent. This is where Sprout and EiA come together to build Nigeria specific digital content and scale up the digital agriculture extension services through FFOs in Nigeria to increase technical knowledge amongst smallholder farmers.

EiA will be delving deep into their research across multiple value chains to offer the latest information and farming resources to the project while Sprout brings FFOs, typically agri tech, insurtech, financial tech, public sector, and civil society organizations through its wealth of knowledge and expertise in working with agriculture partners. The EiA and Sprout will work together to identify value chains and digital format priorities as part of its content strategy for building smallholder farmers’ productivity and resilience in the region. Once the priorities are set, Sprout will transform the content to relevant digital formats and collaborate with EiA’s Human Centered Design Team, the FFOs, and the farmers on running user tests and finalizing content. EiA and Sprout will also explore and implement pilots for precision services in Nigeria that will leverage FFOs’ farmer facing proficiency to provide specific advisories based on location and value chains. The activities of the partnership are spread across two years and aims to reach 200,000 farmers initially with expansion over the next period. Staying true to Sprout’s public good sensibilities, all content created will follow the “creative commons license” ideally 4.0 international, the most flexible and open agreement which only requires attribution for content usage enabling wide usage of the content.

EiA’s goal is to deliver an increase in productivity and quality per unit of input (agronomic gain) for millions of smallholder farming households in prioritized farming systems by 2030, with an emphasis on women and young farmers, showing a measurable impact on food and nutrition security, income, resource use, soil health, climate resilience and climate change mitigation. The digital agriculture advisory content and precision advisory services for smallholders in Nigeria will deliver agronomic gain to smallholder farming households for food and nutrition security and for building their resilience. EiA believes that this will be achieved through co-creating solutions with scaling partners, enabling creation of advanced big data and analytics, and delivering farmer friendly agronomy support.  This is where Sprout aims to add value. Mercy Corp’s Sprout program will support EiA as a 2022 cohort use case.

This collaborative initiative will see smallholder farmers access credible agronomy content to help them make critical agronomic decisions, have the confidence and knowledge to invest in their production and improve their incomes.

In the picture above:

Smallholder farmers are evaluating the results and benefits of the program that has digitized smallholder farmer access to fertilizer recommendations and agronomic advisories in Nigeria. In this program, the EiA and Sasakawa Africa Association (SSA) seeks to innovate and digitize its extension services to provide gender-responsive fertilizer and planting time advice for maize, rice, and cassava growers using a digital tool that provides tailored agronomic recommendations.

The gender-responsive digital agricultural advisory helps extension agents to integrate fertilizer recommendations with relevant agronomic advisories while also expanding extension outreach.

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