Messaging service helps Zambian organisations connect with farmers
After seeing the benefits of enhanced communication “in all sectors of the economy” following the introduction of social media to Zambia, Nathan Mwanaumo decided to tap into it for the benefit of small-scale dairy farmers.
Right: Nathan Mwanaumo of the Dairy Association of Zambia (DAZ) has set up a WhatsApp group for dairy farmers to give them a platform to share knowledge and experiences.
Nathan Mwanaumo is the Regional Field Facilitator for the Dairy Association of Zambia (DAZ) in the Copperbelt province and describes himself as “passionate about agriculture”.
Based in Ndola, the 32-year-old set up one of the first dairy WhatsApp groups in Zambia in 2017.
After seeing the benefits of enhanced communication “in all sectors of the economy” following the introduction of social media to Zambia, Nathan says he decided to tap into it for the benefit of farmers.
He has worked for DAZ since 2014, after completing his University Diploma in Agriculture from the Natural Resources Development College.
The group he set up on WhatsApp is still running and gives dairy farmers a platform to share knowledge and experiences.
Members also comprise other dairy industry stakeholders such as extension officers from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, DAZ and staff from the Zambia Dairy Transformation Programme (ZDTP), which Prime is implementing in Central Province and the Copperbelt in partnership with NIRAS International Consulting.
Information shared in the group includes expert advice on home feed production, life stage feeding, milk quality, reproduction, animal health, general management and more.
Nathan says fact sheets shared by ZDTP staff have been well received by farmers.
“The information [in the fact sheets] is simplified so that any farmer who has the ability to read can easily understand it.”
Nathan says “e-extension” – that is, farm extension advice delivered by remote means – is important now more than ever amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“E-extension means we can continue giving much needed extension service to farmers whilst upholding public health recommendations,” he says.
“It is my desire to see the platform grow and bring more expertise and farmers on board so as to bring extension services closer to the farmers and eventually make agriculture the mainstay of our country’s economy.”
In order to facilitate easy communication, the ZDTP also launched three of its own WhatsApp messaging groups earlier this year– one for farmers who are linked to Fisenge Dairy Business Cooperative Union, another for farmers linked to Kwanshama Dairy Union and a third for farmers associated with Mufulira Dairy Union.
ZDTP Field Manager Kelvin Mulusa says fact sheets are being shared through the WhatsApp groups and farmers will be alerted to upcoming field days once restrictions on gatherings are removed.
Kelvin says the WhatsApp groups also allow for farmers to highlight challenges they are facing and for the ZDTP team to quickly provide support and information to a large group of farmers.
Information is shared in both English and different local languages, e.g. Bemba, Nyanja and Tonga.
“WhatsApp has made it easier for the ZDTP field extension team to disseminate information to farmers by the click of a button,” says Kelvin.
“The system is proving to be convenient and quick as farmers are able to ask for advice/clarifications and are responded to almost immediately.”
This article appeared in an innovation supplement included with our most recent ZDTP newsletter, which is distributed monthly to more than 700 recipients. You can find past editions here.