Will it rain today? The weather, straight to your Inbox

‘I would have lost a total of 7 acres of various commodities, mostly maize, but for the timely weather advice I received from Esoko. All my peers who went in to plant without the information have lost all their crops due to the unpredictable rains.”

-Abdul-Rahman Inusah, Kanponyili, Northern Ghana

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Every farmer needs rain, but even rain at the wrong time can destroy harvests, waste pesticides and seeds, and leave farmers without money – or options. With increasing inconsistencies in weather patterns, climate advisory services are becoming a necessity in rural agricultural communities.

Esoko started many years ago building the technology that allowed organizations to send their farmers relevant prices over SMS. Though delivering prices remains a key component of our platform, we’ve learned from farmers about these more sophisticated content needs – content that will help with their production, not just their marketing. That content is focussed on localized diseases, inputs, and of course, weather.

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Teach a Man to Text

Nicole Hildebrandt is a New York University/Center for Technology and Economic Development doctoral student working on a randomized control trial (RCT) on Esoko in Ghana. These are notes after her recent experience training farmers with the Esoko team. Thanks to CTED for the repost. 

Nicole observing farmers write a text message.

Nicole observing farmers write a text message.

It’s a challenge without any easy solutions.  I saw this first-hand at the Esoko training sessions I observed last month.  In the four-hour training sessions for the treatment group, the first three hours were devoted to Cell Phones 101 (how to navigate the menu, add a contact, check in Inbox, draft a message, and finally press “Send”).  Only the last hour was spent discussing the actual content of the Esoko messages, and how to use the information to obtain higher prices…and that was by far the portion of the training that was easiest for people to absorb. As a (late) twenty-something from the US, I’ve basically grown up using a mobile phone, so it’s hard for me to understand how people can not know how to send a text message (come on, mom, it’s not that hard!).  I think most people in my age cohort – and certainly all those high school and college kids out there who seem to be able to text without even looking at the screen – feel the same way.  Which was why I got some funny looks a few weeks back when I told friends that I was going to Ghana to help teach the farmers in our Esoko RCT how to send and receive a text message.

“You really have to teach a class on that?” Continue reading