Staying Connected to Farmers with WhatsApp and Farmer Videos
The AMIGO project was just initiating when the Covid-19 Pandemic emerged. In order to maintain the interest of new farmer partners and organizations while they remained in lockdown, the project leaders created a WhatsApp diffusion group with key farmers who have smart phones, and are in contact with other farm households in their communities.
A diffusion group is different than a conversational one, because the recipient only interacts with the main sender, not everyone in the group. They decided to do this because the farmers do not have a frequent connection to the internet to support a lot of communications. Also, because this is a new farmer research network, members don’t yet know each other and have not had the opportunity to develop the trust needed to chat freely.
The project leaders have been sending Access Agriculture videos and other farmer-centered materials to the WhatsApp group bi-weekly on topics of interest and associated with pest management, such as on plants that attract beneficial insects and making traps.
Protocol for Re-entry to the Communities and Field Work
After a call among Andes CoP projects to learn about how PROSUCO was working with lead farmers to continue collecting and analyzing experimental data via Whatsapp, projects agreed to work together towards preparing guidelines that would help members and their communities to re-start work after the lockdown is rescinded in their areas. This includes determining how best to reduce risks for communities and researchers, and designing research activities that use what has been learned as a result of experiencing a pandemic, particularly in relation to the involvement of the farmers and farmer networks throughout the whole process of research and the use of communication technologies.