WhatsApp courses for farmers to overcome India's productivity gap

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    CGIAR Initiative on Digital Innovation
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Top photo: Farmer taking the Panchakavya WhatsApp course in Puducherry, India

For the one in five farmers in India living below the poverty line, access to knowledge and training is key to making farming profitable, and to support farms across India to adopt improved technologies. While the coverage and content of agricultural extension services has fallen far short of meeting this need, distance learning and e-extension are seen as an important opportunity. In 2022 up to 40% of smartphone purchases in India occurred in rural areas, and mobile data infrastructure is being upgraded faster than anywhere else in the world.

The CGIAR Initiative on Digital Innovation has launched a WhatsApp-based bot to offer coursers to farmers in their own language, mixing text, audio and video content: the AgroTutor Academy, released through the ICTforAg Learning Network) in collaboration with the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

At the launch of the first course, on 26 January 2024, one hundred farmers in Puducherry, India interacted with the WhatsApp bot in their native Tamil language. The farmers who completed the course at their own pace received a certificate in recognition of their achievement. In their feedback to evaluate the tool, they remarked on the ease of use, their enjoyment of the learning format and the value of obtaining a certificate.

“This tool is simple and nice to create the micro course. It was exciting to see the content in the WhatsApp format. The navigation buttons increase the curiosity of the participants. I was happy to see the farmers involvement.” – D. S. Girija, Course Instructor

“The videos were good but sometimes they took time to load. It was innovative and I felt good because I could complete the course at my own pace”. – Sunthari, Farmer

“The course was excellent and easy to understand. The quiz gave me a thrill. At the end of course I got the certificate, I felt like I had graduated!” – Jayabratha, Farmer

The AgroTutor Academy is just one component of the ICTforAg learning Network, which is also developing over 70 micro-courses on field digital skills delivered via WhatsApp. The scale-out of this learning method in India aims to overcome the information gap and catalyze a transformation in farming practices.

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