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Using Real-Time Data Analysis to Adapt in Moments of Crisis: A Lesson in Reducing Post-Harvest Loss Across Africa

Veronica Olazabal — Former Managing Director, Measurement, Evaluation & Organizational Performance, The Rockefeller Foundation
Nichelle Walton — Manager, Strategic Learning & Impact, The Rockefeller Foundation

The Covid-19 global pandemic has lain bare many vulnerabilities in our current systems, from a lack of equity and economic opportunity to the weaknesses of our food supply chains. As the world moves to address the pandemic’s effects, listening to the stakeholders and intended beneficiaries can yield important insights on how to adapt and refine program approaches and impacts.

Recognizing the importance of hearing directly from stakeholders and beneficiaries, The Rockefeller Foundation partnered with Viamo, a mobile data collection firm specializing in Interactive Voice Response (IVR), to deploy a series of short micro-surveys across our YieldWise initiative in 2019.  YieldWise aims to reduce post-harvest loss across Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, so that food that is grown can reach more people who need it. See the results here.

Mobile data tools such as IVR are an attractive alternative or supplement to conventional measurement approaches, because they produce more timely, actionable data for as little as $5 per respondent. In the case of YieldWise, the micro-surveys were designed to gather feedback on farmers’ satisfaction and perceptions of the initiative’s effectiveness. Through gathering this feedback, the Foundation also wanted to learn more about the strengths and limitations of YieldWise’s approach.

The micro-surveys were sent to the mobile phones of farmers in Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania. In total, 1,431 farmers participated, each of whom received a small incentive of guaranteed airtime, or credit from their mobile phone provider, when they completed one of the surveys. Their anonymous responses were shared with The Rockefeller Foundation in real time through a dashboard link on the Viamo platform, with the raw results enabling additional analysis.

Reviewing the insights from this analysis, we were able to better understand how YieldWise was working (or not working), and then adapt our implementation strategy to adjust for the identified gaps. For example, farmers in Nigeria perceived that they have received less benefits from the YieldWise initiative, compared to the perceptions of farmers in Kenya and Tanzania.  In Nigeria, these results signaled that the team needed to engage with beneficiaries to better understand and address the bottlenecks that prevent reductions in post-harvest loss. In contrast, farmers in Kenya and Tanzania reported consistent and strong results about decreasing their post-harvest losses in the mango and maize value chains and, in turn, increasing revenue.

Rather than replacing other data collection approaches to measurement and evaluation, IVR offers a complementary tool that unearths timely insights or data “snapshots.” In the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic, IVR allows for real-time data collection from the field and an assessment of whether beneficiaries are still experiencing positive impacts from a program, and whether these impacts will be sustained–or eroded–during the crisis. As we work to address the effects of the global pandemic, IVR and other digital tools that offer real-time data can help to refine and correct our approach with the appropriate urgency.


Mobile Solutions to Reduce Crop Loss in Africa

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