Can Smartphones Enhance Social Learning in FRNs?
A group of three Kenya based CCRP projects—FRN NGO, MLP, and AE Hub—have a keen interest in helping farmers to improve soil health, using knowledge-based and dialogue oriented approaches. The group is working with 347 Kenyan farmers affiliated with 8 NGOs. Farmers who belong to the FRN all struggle with the parasitic weed striga, which greatly reduces the productivity of their maize and/or sorghum fields. For the soil health research, farmers are investigating if materials such as biochar, lab residues and boma compost can reduce striga problems, increase staple crop yields and change soil health test results compared to their baseline results.
The group’s hypothesis is that smartphones could spur more social learning within the FRN. So, it gave smartphones to 64 small clusters of neighboring farmers participating in the group’s soil health FRN. Using the phones, the farmers document and share research and own farm experiences—via pictures, voice recordings and short videos clips, and WhatsApp; they watch and discuss the AccessAg Kiswahili agricultural videos that came pre-loaded on the phone; and they use the internet to find other information.
Beth Medvecky, AE Hub; The McKnight Foundation Collaborative Crop Research Program; Evans Odhiambo and Lilian Night; David Stern; FRN members