Mobile app and bulk sms questionnaires are improving the production and quality of peanuts grown by farmers in Malawi. A higher quality of the peanut is not only a prerequisite for food safety but also aboost for the countries’ exports.
Nearly 50,000 peanut farmers in Malawi participate in the Going Nuts program to improve the quality of the peanuts. Sometimes the peanuts show high levels of aflatoxin, making it unfit for export to, for instance, Europe, and for self-consumption. A better quality of peanuts can add value for both the farmers and the poverty-stricken Malawi itself. The program, which includes an app for mobile surveys and up-to-date information through sms messages, informs farmers of production advice and current market prices so they can offer their peanuts at competitive prices.
Mobile app and SMS surveys
Commissioned by and in cooperation with Sympany, a Dutch NGO active in Malawi, CM developed the mobile app and sends SMS surveys through their gateway. In 2010 Sympany commissioned a similar project with CM to inform people about HIV/AIDS; more than 170,000 questionnaires were completed and sent via SMS. The results brought to light a clearer landscape on how Malawians are aware of prevention capabilities and the impact of HIV / AIDS. The information flow could be adjusted accordingly.
Sympany now uses that same method in conjunction with CM. In the Going Nuts project, a public-private partnership (PPP) between Sympany, AfriNut / Oils, DAPP Malawi and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, peanut farmers are trained to grow high-quality peanuts. The surveys should provide a clear picture of the peanut farmers’ situation and how they grow their peanuts. This information is analyzed so that trainers can inform farmers to take measurements. The farmers have a mobile phone and therefore they can, wherever they are located, fill out questionnaires via the app. The answers are analyzed to give customized advise to farmers.
Sjors de Wildt, application consultant at CM, traveled to Malawi to explain the operations of the app and SMS surveys. He visited the peanut farmers on location and provided 35 trainers in the program with mobile phones and showed them how to analyze the responses to surveys. "That was a challenge", explains De Wildt. "Many people in Malawi can read and write, but are not familiar with the qwerty keyboard. We have also established a partnership with the telecom provider Airtel to show farmers how data is processed.”
Collection and analysis
Within the Going Nuts program, trainers are being updated on quality of the peanuts by the farmers. From their field, farmers can directly send their findings using SMS. The SMS surveys are collected by CM Telecom and ranked in an online dashboard based upon location, gender and peanut production per season. In the future, it will be possible that a farmer could request relevant market information like daily market prices through sms short codes, in order to be more competitive.
Peanut Value Chain
Agricultural trainers in the Going Nuts program recently attended a workshop Data Collection via smartphones. Together with CM, Sympany has developed a tool that makes it easy for agriculture trainers to collect data from thousands of peanut farmers and process it. Ultimately, the goal is to strengthen the entire value chain of 50,000 peanut farmers in Malawi.