Coping with COVID-19 Six Months Later in Kenya, Ghana, and Bangladesh
Six months into the COVID-19 crisis, many industry leaders wonder what the future of aid will look like. In Kenya, Ghana, and Bangladesh, three separate projects are finding their own ways to cope in the face of adversity through technology and connectivity.
Poultry workers connect on WhatsApp in Kenya
In Northern Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands, safety concerns related to the pandemic caused the main egg suppliers from Nanyuki to stop supplying eggs to Isiolo. To fix the egg shortage, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, helped create a WhatsApp group for poultry workers. Now with 80 members, the group includes representatives from Kenchic Limited, a well-known supplier of breeding stock and extension services, as well as the Isiolo Poultry Farmers Association, a group of small- and large-scale poultry producers, egg hatchery operators, equipment suppliers, and processors.
Through the popular messaging app, farmers have accessed 2,000 eggs, marketed their products, and shared tips on poultry management. With this ability to coordinate, poultry workers will not only weather the shock of the pandemic more efficiently but also steady the market and open the door to more growth opportunities.
Outgrower business networks intermediaries in Ghana
The USAID-funded Feed the Future Ghana Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement II (ADVANCE II) Project, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, works with 10 zonal and three regional outgrowing business networks that support 27,000 smallholder farmers. These networks are ensuring that production and marketing activities aren’t disrupted by COVID-19 and that farmers preserve their place within the economy throughout the crisis.
In May and early June, the Feed the Future Ghana ADVANCE II Project’s technical advisors helped the networks take inventory of available supply lines and input sources. They also checked the availability of farm machinery for plowing fields, in light of the shortfall in available tractors, which the team uncovered during a recent rapid assessment. Knowing how many tractors were available allowed the networks to meet farmers’ needs. Outgrower business networks are now poised to play an important intermediary role in the agriculture market of Northern Ghana, even after the crisis subsides.
Farmers coordinate via smartphone in Bangladesh
When COVID-19 struck and in-person training became difficult to host safely, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Bangladesh Rice and Diversified Crops (RDC) Activity, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, turned to information and communications technology. The RDC Activity partnered with a national mobile network operator, Robi, which began selling product bundles that included smartphones, SIM cards, and a Robi-developed social media app called Krishi Bhai.
Using the app, farmers could share photos and information with each other and ask for advice on their crops. Their access to mobile technology is minimizing the gaps in connectivity caused by COVID-19.
To reach even more rural farmers, the RDC Activity is promoting the use of Robi’s products and apps among other companies. So far, nine companies have ordered 288 phones to take advantage of this service. Robi is also working with other USAID-funded programs to offer the low-cost bundle, expanding its rural customer base and enabling more distance learning to occur.