Welthungerhilfe: Educating farmers in Zimbabwe with help from Infobip SMS
Bridging the information gap for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa
In order to improve production, finance, and marketing activities, farmers need to have access to timely, relevant, and accurate information about best farming practices. Welthungerhilfe is tackling this problem by introducing a variety of modern channels to communicate with their audience. In addition to workshops and continuous on-site education, the organization is utilizing mobile apps such as Kurima Mari and Agrishare, WhatsApp messages, and even podcasts to advise farmers.
However, in Zimbabwe, only 55% of the population has Internet access, and only 50% have smartphones, and these stats are even less in the more rural areas. Since Welthungerhilfe’s goal is to reach all farmers, and not just the ones who are online, it was necessary to find another way to communicate.
Welthungerhilfe is working to address this situation.
Welthungerhilfe uses SMS to educate farmers
Their solution proved to be the simplest, most ubiquitous channel: SMS. As a technology, SMS has many advantages: it is universally accepted on all mobile phones, has high open rates, is delivered instantly, and offers a good return on investment (ROI). SMS as a medium is also highly effective as a succinct, focused way to communicate important information.
In 2016, Welthungerhilfe began sending messages through the Infobip platform via our user-friendly campaign creation tool. Welthungerhilfe enlisted Infobip as a messaging provider because of the reliability of service and cost, as well as advanced features such as the ability to monitor and analyze campaigns.
Over the last two years, Welhungerhilfe sent a total of 850,000 messages to 20,000 farmers in Zimbabwe. They created two types of notifications to keep farmers informed:
- Alerts, including weather conditions, local selling opportunities, marketing and pricing advice, co-op opportunities, and health emergencies
- Farming advice about crops, livestock, and nutrition
Welthungerhilfe also uses the Infobip communication platform as a means to get instant feedback from farmers who have questions about the messages they receive. This two-way communication channel has provided farmers with an agricultural extension program, used to educate and deliver much-needed information in the region. The platform is currently being administrated by Welthungerhilfe and the Ministry of Agriculture which enables the long-term sustainability of such an approach.
Instant communication for instant impact
Research conducted by Welthungerhilfe reveals the following messages were particularly effective in reaching their target farmers:
- Cholera awareness
- Information on animal and human diseases, especially rabies and cholera
- Weather forecasts and notification of drought-tolerant crops
- Identification of market buyers who are active at specific points in rural areas
- Nutrition-sensitive messages to improve health
Protecting Against Cholera
In 2008, a significant outbreak of cholera affected more than 100,000 people in Zimbabwe, and while the situation has since improved, outbreaks are still common. The MELANA, EXTRA and ABC projects led by Welthungerhilfe play an essential role in minimizing these outbreaks: when cholera starts to spread in districts, the organization sends a text alert to farmers.
Instead of informing the farmers one village at a time, which would take significant time and resources, SMS enables Welthungerhilfe to spread the message to a wide group instantly. Farmers can recognize symptoms easily, alert the rest of their community, and seek medical attention fast, if affected.
Farmers expressed high approval of the messaging project, noting that Welthungerhilfe’s texts helped them learn new things. For example, prior to these messages, they were not aware of how cholera originates and spreads.
Other messages farmers appreciated include:
- Invitations to vaccinate dogs to prevent the spread of rabies
- Weather forecasts
- Early-warning tips on gathering drought-tolerant crops, like sorghum, to get a better yield for the farming season
Thanks to messages sent by Welthungerhilfe, farmers have learned how to prepare for the coming agricultural season, become food-secure, and preserve their health – as they build their resilience and work their way to complete self-sufficiency.
Founded in 1962, Welthungerhilfe is one of Germany’s largest non-governmental organizations (NGO). Supporting more than 8,900 overseas projects in 70 countries since its inception, Welthungerhilfe works on the principle of help for self-help: from fast disaster relief to reconstruction and long-term development cooperation projects with national and international partner organizations. In Zimbabwe, Welthungerhilfe supports the efforts of people to rise above hunger and poverty through educating farmers.