For many years, farmers have been left frustrated by the ever escalating cost of agricultural production. This ranges from costs incurred in the acquisition of inputs to those incurred in pest and disease management. As unfair as the farming life might already be, emergence of new pest species such as Tuta absoluta and disease traits such as the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) tend to be further worsening the situation. Farmers feel even more deflated by the meagre returns they earn from low prices offered by traders of agricultural produce.
In a bid to help farmers mitigate the losses incurred through pest damage, USAID-KAVES, embarked on a mission to help farmers minimize, if not curb the losses caused by the most notorious of all the storage pests of cereals; the maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais). This was to be achieved through use of PICS bags (also known as hermetic bags) manufactured by Bell Industries. These bags, made of a polyethylene material, utilize the design of hermetic sealing to ensure that any present pests suffocate to death. They also help prevent external pests from penetrating and entering the bags. In so doing, the bags serve the purpose of elongating the grains’ shelf life and ensuring food availability to these households all year round.
Esoko’s mobile and web technology was deployed to poll farmers to:
- Acquire information regarding adoption of PICS bags (whether the farmers had bought any bags and if so, how many they had bought)
- Determine the level of adoption versus the location of the farmers. This will thereafter be used to determine the areas that require more awareness about the bags.
The SMS Polls App on the Esoko platform allows you to poll target recipients via SMS messages. For the purposes of facilitating a two-way communication i.e. sending of poll questions and receiving responses, the sender ID of these messages is usually a short code. This allows the recipient to respond to the poll questions, free of charge. Their responses hit the Esoko platform in real time. Once the poll comes to a close, the responses can be downloaded as an excel sheet for analysis or better still, the users can export this data into their preferred data analysis tool such as SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences), GenStart, R Data analysis tool etc.
The first step in polling is to have a list of your target recipients. KAVES gave a list of target farmers who had been involved in the trial usage of PICS bags either as individuals or in groups. These farmers were profiled on the platform and categorized based on the counties they come from.
To introduce the polling exercise, all targeted recipients were sent a message using another powerful tool on the Esoko platform referred to as Push. Unlike the SMS Poll app, this app is suitable for one way communication i.e. sending of messages that do not require recipients’ responses. The poll questions were thereafter sent, first enquiring whether they had bought any bags. For all those who replied in the affirmative, the next question was sent enquiring how many they had bought.
From the received responses, a report was prepared and the following conclusions were drawn:
- Farmers in some areas had little or no information about the PICS bags
- In some areas, the farmers were aware of the benefits of the PICS bags but could not access them i.e. they had no information as to where they could buy bags.
- Some of the farmers still felt that despite the bags being very effective, they were too expensive.