Dogbey Richard Kwame is a MSc student at the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana working on the implementation of the Farmer Support App within the Wagrinova project. He partly grew up in the countryside where he saw the struggles of smallholder farmers first hand. Most of these are water related. This motivated him to choose irrigation and drainage engineering as his specialization and to join the development of the Farmer Support App.
“A lot of the farmers in Ghana rely on rainfall but currently they do not have access to reliable forecasting information” says Kwame. The Farmer Support App (output from the WaterApps project) is a mobile application where farmers can not only access scientific forecasts but also upload their own indigenous forecast based on ecological indicators. These two are then combined into a hybrid weather forecast. With this, the farmers can prepare for upcoming weather and avoid surprises. “This is the only initiative I have seen that includes the farmer’s forecast into the product.”
Kwame sees that the farmers involved in the pilot trust the app because they notice the forecasts are reliable but more so because they are part of the project. “This project takes the farmers’ opinions into consideration which makes them feel respected”. The farmers co-creators of the app, they were and are involved during every stage of its development. The fact that the app is interactive and the input of the farmers is valued similar to the scientific forecast helps to build this trust and to improve the reliability of the forecast. Kwame expects that more ecological indicators will be included after the evaluation of the app. For example: “if the ducks flap their wings in early morning, it will rain and if you see earth worms in the evening, it may rain at dawn”, the last of which he saw with his own eyes.
Richard Kwame, explaining the Farmer Support App to female farmers in Yepalsi Village
In his part of the project, Kwame has been regularly visiting two villages since June 2020. During these visits he trains the farmers to use the app and evaluates the pilot. “I wanted to join this project because I enjoy working with rural communities very much”. He already worked in rural communities in an earlier phase of his studies. He stayed in a village for two months to explore the challenges of local farmers as part of his university curriculum. This is something he would like to continue doing in his future career, preferably in academia.
Kwame was impressed by the skills of the villagers and how quickly they took up the use of the app. “These are often people with a low education level but they managed to understand the forecasts and the use of the app very fast. The intuitive icons used to design the app helped”. The farmers in the pilot villages are now using the app and uploading their forecasts every day. “They are hoping the app will continue after the project is finished”.
One of the main obstacles Kwame sees in the upscaling of the app is the lack of internet connection in rural areas in Ghana. “The farmers need access to internet and mobile phones or tablets to be able to use the app, but a lot of people do not have access to these”. The WaterApps project provided phones and tablets to the pilot villages but it was still challenging at first to download the app in one of the villages because of the poor internet connection (they did manage in the end). Even so the farmers and Kwame, undeniably, see value in and a future for the farmer support App in Ghana.
Richard Kwame answering a question about the Farmer Support App in Nakpanzoo village