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How ICTs Can Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

Alice Van der Elstraeten's picture

From the ICT Works Newsletter: The Climate Change Adaptation and ICT (CHAI) Project co-implemented by FHI 360, uses ICT tools to provide climate adaptation information to more than 100,000 farmers in local languages in three intervention districts in Uganda with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity in communities vulnerable to climate change. Studies conducted by the CHAI project showed that access to adaptation information improved by up to 48 percent in the intervention districts (Nakasongola, Sembabule and Soroti) compared to the control district (Rakai), while the effectiveness of adaptation actions that were based on information received through the project increased by up to 33 percent in the intervention areas compared to the control district.

While there have been many attempts to increase farmer resilience, many of those efforts were not successful. How did this project find such great success? Berhane Gebru, Director of Programs for TechLab at FHI 360, and principal investigator and technical lead for CHAI, used four simple but very effective strategies during the program:

  • Go Hyper-Local. Berhane and project staff provided seasonal weather forecasts and agricultural information localized to the sub-county level; weekly livestock and crop market information to help farmers decide what, when, where and how much to sell; guidance on low-cost rainwater harvesting techniques; information on mechanisms to cope with droughts and floods; and termite-control measures.
  • Use Every Communication Channel. The project provided information through a mix of established and new ICT mediums, including interactive FM radio (broadcasts that allow farmers to ask questions or make comments through voice mail and text messaging, with responses later aired live during radio talk shows), text messaging, email, and community loudspeakers.
  • Invest in Existing Systems.Agriculture extension agents, and other existing service providers we incorporated from the start of the project, and each communication activity also directed farmers to existing national systems. The project also invested in improving institutional processes to accept and respond to greater interest and inquiries by farmers.
  • Adapt, Adapt, Adapt. All throughout the project, Berhane and project staff actively sought feedback from the users and adapted the program communication mediums and messaging to optimize its impact. They provided updated agricultural advisories twice a week in response to user needs. They engaged local chiefs, religious leaders and other authority figures who helped by sharing adaptation information through their own channels. This reinforced the credibility of the information and encouraged farmers to use it.

For more information or to watch the interview with Berhane Gebru, click here.