Climate Smart, Gender, Technology & Innovation
Bridging the Digital Gender Divide
Advancing Adoption to Climate Change through ICT Solutions for Nigerian Rice Farmers – a Changemaker’s Story
Despite more than two decades of interventions geared towards moving closer to gender equality, the digital skills divide appears to still be growing.
For years, this divide was assumed to be symptomatic of technical challenges: The thinking went that women would catch up with men when the world had cheaper devices and lower connectivity prices, due to the limited purchasing power and financial independence of women compared with men. (UNESCO for the EQUALS Skills Coalition 2019). Today billions of people have access to affordable devices and broadband networks, but women especially do not have the necessary skills to take advantage of these technologies to improve their lives. Therefore, specific and tailored training in digital literacy, the adoption of solutions, and above all else the interest and perception of technologies as beneficial utilities are important.
The Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), a Nigerian-based NGO and Matching Fund partner of the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) has trained 60 extension workers from the 4 states of Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa and FCT in Nigeria, on advancing agriculture through the deployment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) this year alone. The 240 Extension workers consisting of 210 female and 30 male extension workers are expected to re-train 150 peer farmer leaders, each within their various states. The training was conducted in collaboration with National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
The training introduced the participants to the RiceAdvise app, an android-based solution that helps farmers and extension workers receive essential information for proper agricultural practice. RiceAdvice also functions as a moisture meter, allowing accurate moisture content tracking of crop produce before bagging. RiceAdvice was developed by AfricaRice to give field specific recommendations on fertilizer requirements based on the farmers management practices. It is a sustainability tool that enables proper nutrient management (balancing crop nutrient requirement with nutrients in the soil). The app additionally helps tackle the issue of climate change by advising farmers on the weather through weather forecasts.
Speaking about the training, the Executive Director of WOFAN, Hajiya Salamatu Garba exclaimed that the:
“60 extension workers from each of the 4 states can engage over 150 farmers on modern farm technologies, thus reaching over 36.000 farmers. If the farmers don’t get the right information, it means they have less knowledge to increase production and mitigate climate change.”
According to Hajiya Garba, the training also includes exposing farmers and extension workers to insurance providers to secure investments. She notes that WOFAN got insurance companies involved in the training because there was a need for farmers to know what to do in times of climate crisis and loss, she added:
“We also brought in insurance providers so that they will give us the necessary products that go in line with climate shock. Last year, a lot of farmers faced flood issues and some faced drought, so now if the farmers find themselves in that situation, what will insurance companies do? Therefore, we are partnering up with them, to make sure that farmers meet up with their requirements”,
The training looks at the use of drones to increase productivity, advance farmers and capture data, additionally the extension workers are trained on how to simply deploy drone technologies.
Speaking to the cost of the equipment, Hajia Garba said WOFAN started assisting with technology since last year in the form of a grant, adding that the grant is a revolving grant that ensures that groups use it to generate income allowing the grant to become accessible to the community at large.
“It means we have to look for technology and methods to which we can meet the food demand of Nigeria, it is only when we invest in such services that we can assist in providing food, which is going to be the next thing to knock off non-oil economic production in the country“.
A study conducted by CARI found that farmers that use RiceAdvice combined with good agronomic practices, had higher profit margins than farmers who did not use RiceAdvise. In addition to WOFAN, over 4.100 CARI rice farmers use RiceAdvice every season and achieve above average results.