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Analysis of Digital Agriculture Extension and Advisory Services in Niger: Conclusions and Recommendations

The Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity (DLEC) project and the Sustainable Opportunities for Increasing Livelihoods with Soils (SOILS) Consortium undertook a study to analyze the digital agricultural extension and advisory services (EAS) in Niger. The study provides data, insights, and recommendations on digital EAS platforms and services to support the SOILS Consortium in the development of a technology park in Niger. The technology park will function as an agricultural information and training center to accelerate dissemination and scaling efforts and provide training to farmers and other agricultural value chain actors. 

The analysis of the digital agricultural EAS in Niger uses the framework developed by Heike Baumüller and Benjamin K. Addom, which uses four pillars to explain digitalization for agriculture: (1) digital agricultural innovations, (2) big data and analytics, (3) business development services, and (4) the enabling environment. 

The study concludes: 

  1. The limited ability of extension agents to reach farmers, compounded by the restrictions on mass gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the limited coordination and collaboration among EAS providers, have reduced the potential benefits of traditional EAS in Niger. 
  2. Digital EAS could be a game changer for smallholder farmers and other actors to access quality EAS from the comfort of their homes or workplaces. 
  3. Niger has a limited but gradually advancing enabling environment and agricultural data infrastructure to support digital agriculture. There are quality digital platforms which are accessible and effective in providing or supporting quality EAS that largely meet the needs of farmers and other actors across the country. 
  4. Digital agricultural extension activities appear to be driven by donors and international development partners which do not guarantee the sustainability of the digital EAS platforms. 

The study recommends: 

  1. There should be active coordination of EAS providers to avoid duplication, enhance synergy and complementarity necessary to serve the diversified needs of farmers. 
  2. There should be continuous capacity building to facilitators and moderators, as well as farmers, due to the low digital literacy in Niger. 
  3. Development of a national farmer digital identity database should be a priority of the state and relevant private actors, using the databases of the National Network of Chambers of Agriculture (RECA), peasant organizations, and other organizations as a starting point. 
  4. The National Agricultural Advisory System (SNCA) should take a lead in exploring sustainable and innovative financing mechanisms for agricultural extension that minimize the dependence on donor funding. 

Read and/or download the full study here

Covid-19 resurgence in India: Supporting our team during this crisis

The resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic in India has affected more than 23 million people in the country, bringing the healthcare system into disarray.  Digital Green staff in India are under immense stress by witnessing what is happening in the country, to their family and friends, and from the struggles to find medicines, hospital beds, oxygen, and medical care during this resurgence. Many of our staff have been directly affected by this Covid-19 wave, with some colleagues getting sick and others, sadly, losing loved ones. We grieve with our staff during these difficult times. 

We all stand united and in solidarity with those who are affected and as an organization, trying to do our best within our means and resources to support each other. Digital Green has updated its Covid-19 organizational response developed last year and  taken additional steps to continue to support our staff during this resurgence of Covid-19. Maintaining the physical, mental and emotional well-being of our team members is our priority.  

Staying connected

We formed a Covid Care Group to support staff who are affected by the pandemic. The group includes staff who have recovered from Covid-19, sharing their personal experiences and motivating those who are affected. Supervisors are in frequent contact with their staff and checking on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We have created a WhatsApp group for all India staff in order to quickly share information and remain closely connected as a team. Our leadership continues providing regular advisories and guidelines to staff and meets weekly to coordinate efforts and make informed decisions for the health and safety of staff. 

Maintaining staff welfare

To recover from anxiety and stress of the pandemic, Friday afternoons have been set aside for India team members to meet virtually to engage in fun and recreational activities. We hope this will maintain and build morale and togetherness in these difficult times. In addition, the Covid Care Group has been actively helping staff, providing anything from cooked meals to moral support. Supervisors are also encouraging staff to take days off to ensure mental and emotional recovery and well-being.

Helping staff cope with the pandemic 

At the beginning of the pandemic, our staff had to make special arrangements to work efficiently from home and thus Digital Green started providing a work from home allowance to meet such costs, which we continue to provide. Last year, Digital Green created a Covid-19 leave policy to provide additional paid leave to our staff, who are either directly affected or become caregivers to loved ones. As vaccine rollouts take place globally, the Covid-19 leave policy has been updated to include taking time off to get the vaccine or recover from effects of the vaccine. To access medical services and support more efficiently, the Covid Care Group developed a database with information and contacts for medical support and services around India. Digital Green also enlisted qualified medical practitioners who are on call to provide medical advice and counseling to our team members and their family members. To ease the burden on our staff, these medical professionals are available to take appointments virtually and are paid directly by Digital Green. Lastly, a Covid Care Fund has been established to support staff with medical expenses not covered by insurance. 

We welcome your ideas and suggestions to continue supporting our staff throughout this crisis. Email us at covid19@digitalgreen.org. Stay safe! 

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