YieldWise is The Rockefeller Foundation’s $130 million initiative working with private, public, and nonprofit actors involved in the food supply system to cut their food loss and waste by half. From how smallholder farmers harvest and bring crops to market, to reducing corporate losses across supply chains, to corporate losses across supply chains, all the way to consumer waste, we seek to create an efficient food system with minimal loss.

A productive food system with minimal loss is our goal–and one that is well within reach.

Testing a cost-effective,
mobile tech solution

The enormous global growth of mobile phone access presents an opportunity for funders, such as philanthropies and other development agencies, to easily connect, communicate, and listen to their clients and end-users. As shown by a pilot conducted by The Rockefeller Foundation with its grantee, Viamo, a well-designed interactive voice response (IVR) mobile survey can result in fast, cost-effective and, importantly, actionable feedback from the field, even from the most distant and remote areas. And, while mobile data collection will not replace the more face-to-face, text, or online survey approaches critical to measurement and evaluation data gathering, it does add another analytical tool organizations can use to quickly assess what is and is not working for their stakeholders.

Cutting to the Chase

In mid-2019, The Rockefeller Foundation and its grantee, Viamo, a development-focused mobile communication service provider, piloted interactive voice response (IVR) mobile surveys across YieldWise – an initiative aimed at reducing post-harvest loss.

 
 

The purpose of the pilot was to gather stakeholder feedback on farmer satisfaction and perceptions of the initiative’s effectiveness across the initiative’s three value chains: tomato in Nigeria, maize in Tanzania, and mango in Kenya. The first step called for developing a series of five-question surveys (coined “micro-surveys”) to deploy to farmers who had received YieldWise support during the 2018–2019 crop season. In addition to learning if and how YieldWise end-users were or were not benefiting from the initiative, the results of the pilot would enable The Foundation to test mobile data collection as an alternative to more traditional data-gathering approaches and, in turn, share learning with philanthropies and funding agencies on how and why this approach to gathering stakeholder voice might be appropriate.

The What, How, and Why of IVR

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What We Did

 

IVR surveys are pre-recorded mobile voice calls made to end-users, such as farmers who are not expecting them. Thus, every IVR survey needs to include:

  1.  an accurate and up-to-date list of those participating in the initiative
  2.  well-thought-out survey questions voiced in local languages that farmers will easily understand and can answer by pressing 1, 2, or 3 on their keypads.

 

How We Did It

 

Designing The Study

Viamo translates and contextualizes questions into something local people can understand and that coincides with their social mores. For example, if the calls are going to a community with a primarily female focus, then the questions should be asked by a woman.

 

 

Choosing The Questions

Experience has shown that if a call goes on too long, the respondent might hang up without answering all of the questions. Thus, each survey was broken into micro-surveys – 3 parts of 5 questions each, 15 total. For completing each survey, respondents were offered a small incentive of extra phone minutes if they completed the questions. Even so, there was a slight drop-off in participants from survey to survey.

 

Choosing Whom to Call

The initial goal was to send the micro-surveys to 2,000 farmers in each of the YieldWise country settings: Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania. Local service providers have responsibility for maintaining contact lists. While some providers had up-to-date lists, others had duplicates, errors, or inactive phone numbers. The response rate would have increased with better contact lists and if farmers had been notified during their training that they would be receiving a survey on their mobile phone about the training and services they received.

 

Why It’s Useful

Taking Advantage of New Technology

Studies have found that people are 10 times more likely to engage with IVR than non-voice surveys. Digital media offers philanthropies and development organizations myriad opportunities for innovative new directions in gathering data and feedback from the field. It gives the “surveyors” a great deal of control over survey design, and also access to raw data through an online dashboard link. The entire operation – design survey, deploy and receive results – can be finalized in around six weeks.

 

Adjusting to Farmers’ Situations

Having respondents answer survey questions via voice message rather than in-person data collection is not only extremely cost effective, it allows farmers the ability to provide feedback without needing to change their daily routine. It also allows those who are illiterate or vision problems to participate, which would not possible with online or text message surveys.

 

 

Gathering Quantitative Information

Each of the three micro-surveys sought a different level of information: i) who are the end users of YieldWise, ii) what services have they received, and iii) what difference has it made in their wellbeing. The approach does not allow for easily gathering qualitative answers. It is a better match for those looking for a reliable, low-cost way to gather timely quantitative data from remote rural areas for decision-making.

 

 

Working Closely to Respondents

Usually, philanthropies and other funding agencies work through grantees and/or partners who oversee field operations, and who often hire others who actually interact with the end-users of their initiatives. IVR enables philanthropies and other funding agencies to gather feedback, and close the feedback loop, more directly. That said, it should be noted that the data are self-reported and should be triangulated with other sources to verify.

 

 

Analyzing Raw Data

Philanthropies or other funding agencies usually engage grantees to gather and analyze data from the field and present their results in a report. With IVR and other mobile approaches, organizations can also receive the end-users’ anonymized answers directly from the field in the form of raw data. Access to the raw data provides a level of flexibility that is not usually available when receiving a more static report. This ability offers additional opportunities for innovative new directions in data analysis, for instance, when applying data science methods to analyze and visualize the data.

Results of YieldWise Survey

The micro-surveys were sent to the mobile phones of farmers in each YieldWise country. In total, 1,431 farmers participated, having been guaranteed security and anonymity. Their responses were shared with The Rockefeller Foundation in real time through a dashboard link, with the raw results enabling additional analysis.

Of the respondents across all three countries:

 
  • 63%

    said their revenue increased due to support from YieldWise

  • 69%

    reported an increase in crop yields

  • 61%

    reported a decrease in crop spoilage

 

As for the main services the farmers received from YieldWise, most farmers reported receiving access to training and technology. In terms of improvements in well-being, the results varied across the three countries – as depicted below – with greater improvements seen across the maize and mango value chains than in the tomato value chain.

Examples of Impact

  • Rabia Kabiru (left) shows members of the Farmers’ Service Center how tomato seedlings are grown. The center provides training for members and easy access to agricultural inputs.
    Rabia Kabiru (left) shows members of the Farmers’ Service Center how tomato seedlings are grown. The center in Nigeria provides training for members and easy access to agricultural inputs.
  • Members of the Farmers Service Center at Shika transplanting seedlings following a training session on good agricultural practices.
    Members of the Farmers Service Center in Shika, Nigeria transplanting seedlings following a training session on good agricultural practices.
  • Members of the Farmers’ Service Centre at Shika, learning agricultural practices.
    Members of the Farmers’ Service Centre in Shika, Nigeria, learning on good agricultural practices.
  • Members of the Farmers Service Center at Shika.
    Members of the Farmers Service Center in Shika, Nigeria.
  • Women in Africa joining a local farming sector that is largely dominated by men.
    Members of the Farmers Service Center during a training session on good agricultural practices. The Center is run by lead farmer Rabi Kabiru has been able to draw women to join the group to a sector that is largely dominated by men.
  • Crate filled with tomatoes sitting in a crop field.
    Use of crates ensures that the tomatoes get to the buyer in good condition without being crushed and spoilt.
  • Members of the Farmers’ Service Centre at Shika, Kaduna, Nigeria
    Members of the Farmers’ Service Centre at Shika, Kaduna, Nigeria.
  • Members of the Farmers' Service Centre standing together.
    Members of the Farmers’ Service Centre at Shika, Kaduna, Nigeria.

What Did We Learn?

We learned that many of the farmers across the Yieldwise value chains were men with household sizes 3 or greater.

 

We also gained insight into which services were accessed across the three countries of implementation. This allowed us to ask questions about what the drivers of these results were and what enabling variables we needed to drive uptake of services.

 

And finally, we received feedback on whether these services were making a difference in farmer’s well-being.

 
  • Report

    Data and Feedback from the Field: Testing a Cost-Effective Mobile Solution

    The enormous global growth of mobile phone access presents an opportunity for funders, such as philanthropies and other development agencies, to easily connect, communicate, and listen to their clients and end-users. As shown by a pilot conducted by The Rockefeller Foundation with its grantee, Viamo, a well-designed interactive voice response (IVR) mobile survey can result […]
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  • It has been a great opportunity for Viamo to work with The Rockefeller Foundation, showcasing how IVR Mobile Surveys can be a relatively low-cost, quick approach to gathering data.
    Hannah Metcalfe
    Viamo Tanzania Country Director & Global Private Sector Lead

Viamo - A global social enterprise improving lives via mobile solutions

Offering interactive, targeted mobile surveys and engagement campaigns, mobile engagement solutions (IVR, SMS, Apps, Web and IM bots), strategic connections to telecoms companies, and in-country implementation support in emerging markets.

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