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Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.


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Challenges: Agricultural Programs
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The Power of TV in Triggering Feedback Through Mobile Phones

Evelyn Kiptot, World Agroforestry Centre (Nairobi, Kenya)
Oct 29, 2014

Evelyne Kiptot from the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya will evaluate whether television programs can teach innovative agricultural practices to dairy farmers, and whether mobile phones can be used to measure their performance. Rural farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have traditionally been told about improved farming practices in person, which is expensive and has limited coverage. They will film a series of four television programs in the field and air them on a popular TV station in Kenya. Viewers will be encouraged to provide feedback on their experiences and give their opinions via mobile phone, which will be responded to by experts. Their approach will be evaluated by surveying a population of farmers for changes in knowledge and agricultural practices.

Voices that Count

Steff Deprez, Vredeseilanden (Leuven, Belgium)
Oct 21, 2014

Steff Deprez of Vredeseilanden in Belgium will develop an approach utilizing pattern detection software (SenseMaker) to translate feedback from smallholder farmers directly into quantitative data that can be easily queried by agricultural development program managers and evaluators. They will test their approach on rice, passion fruit and coffee smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan African to evaluate whether they should be included in modern markets. A so-called signification framework will be developed that comprises specific questions for the farmers in a format that allows them to supplement their feedback with additional narrative to facilitate conversion into statistical data. Participatory feedback sessions will also be organized. The entire approach will be cost-effective and designed for up to 3000 participants.

Using Mobile Phone for Transparent School Feeding Tendering

Lesley Drake, Imperial College London (London, United Kingdom)
Oct 15, 2014

Lesley Drake of Imperial College London in the United Kingdom will develop a mobile phone-based platform to increase the participation of smallholder farmers in the Kenyan government's homegrown school meals program. The technology will enable schools to report their food requirements, and the Ministry to advertise tenders to registered sellers including smallholder farmers, all via mobile phone. This approach will lower the cost of making school feeding contracts and make the process transparent, as well as providing a new market for local farmers. They will develop and pilot test the platform with 48 schools in two counties in Kenya.

Farm Buddy: Mobile Linkage to Farmers and Organizations

Adam Abramson, Foundations for Farming (Harare, Zimbabwe)
Oct 13, 2014

Adam Abramson from Foundations for Farming in Zimbabwe will develop a low-cost mobile phone platform to encourage local farmers to directly engage with each other and with local organizations to share their experiences and provide feedback. The platform is installed on feature phones and allows the formation of 'buddy' chat groups. They will further develop the software, and evaluate its ability to promote the adoption of a novel farming technique by conducting a randomized controlled trial in 72 sites across Zimbabwe. They plan to provide the technology as an SMS interface delivered on the user's SIM card for a low-cost monthly access fee, and organizations will be able to collect and analyze mobile data.

Smart Accountability in the Rwandan Coffee Sector

Ranjan Shrestha, SNV USA (Bethesda, Maryland, United States)
Apr 25, 2014

Ranjan Shrestha of SNV (Netherlands Development Organization) in Rwanda will facilitate communication between smallholder coffee producers and district coffee taskforces to boost the coffee sector in Rwanda. District coffee taskforces composed of public, private, and non-profit members meet quarterly to discuss current issues, including production and market access, and to develop action plans. Coffee producers are largely excluded from these proceedings due to communication barriers. A pilot test will be conducted by training youths to record the current concerns of local coffee producers using smart phones, and to visually present the data for ease of transmission to the taskforces via internet. The approach will be monitored by analyzing the numbers and types of issues raised and by who, and how they are addressed, as well as evaluating how the approach is perceived by users.

The Farmer Voice in Agriculture Extension Services

Shaun Ferris, Catholic Relief Services (Baltimore, Maryland, United States)
Apr 23, 2014

Shaun Ferris of Catholic Relief Services in the U.S. will build and test different ways of obtaining feedback from farmers who are using business-focused agricultural services, which his organization provides. This suite of services, including courses on business planning and production, is designed to improve farmer productivity and profitability using a system of web-based applications and mobile phone information delivery. To transfer the management of some of these services back to the local communities, they need feedback on their performance and value in the field. They will build three different methods of obtaining feedback, including SMS polls and direct calls, into their existing service provision system, and evaluate them for efficacy and cost.

Low-Cost Crowd-Solving of Agricultural Development

Rastislav Ivanic, Oliver's Planet, Inc (San Diego, California, United States)
Apr 21, 2014

Rastislav Ivanic of Oliver's Planet, Inc. in the U.S. will develop their online platform using SMS to crowd source expertise from the developing world's rural farmers in order to better design and execute agricultural initiatives and promote their funding. The platform will collect simple statements by SMS directly from the farmers without charge on possible solutions to relevant problems, and use them to build feasible and supported solutions. These possible solutions will then be sent back to the farmers for them to rate. With the help of local collaborators, they will recruit rural farmers to field test the platform with two to four projects and evaluate cost, farmer participation, idea generation, and the ability of crowd-solving to generate workable solutions.

Less is More: the 5Q Approach

Andy Jarvis, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Cali, Colombia)
Apr 15, 2014

Andy Jarvis of CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) in Colombia will test a new feedback approach, involving cycles of five simple questions asked to relevant stakeholders, to see whether it can promote the success of agricultural projects in developing countries. Involving local farmers in the design and implementation of agricultural projects is important but mostly bypassed because it is time-consuming and often impractical. To address this, a simple cyclical approach will be designed and tested to collect feedback over the course of a project to monitor progress and inform decisions. The cycle is initiated by a set of five selected questions on a specific project posed to farmers, project implementers, and donors. A web platform will be built to publish the responses, enable the data to be discussed by all stakeholders, and allow subsequent decisions to be communicated via video across all groups. This should lead to a new set of five questions to begin the next cycle. He will engage stakeholders to evaluate the approach to see whether it can increase participation and provide quicker feedback.

Photovoice for Gender Responsive and Effective Innovation

Eliane Ubalijoro, McGill University (Montreal, Québec, Canada)
Apr 15, 2014

Eliane Ubalijoro and Myriam Gervais of McGill University in Canada will analyze methods to use the knowledge and expertise of rural women smallholder farmers in developing countries to better inform agricultural development projects. Although women are central players in the production, processing, and distribution of agricultural food products in sub-Saharan Africa, they are often not consulted during the planning of projects related to food security, partly due to communication barriers. They will develop and evaluate participatory methodologies, including appreciative inquiry, which is a particular style of questioning to promote practical responses, and photovoice to supplement words with visual aids, such as videoclips, in order to record the problems faced by women farmers in three districts in Rwanda, and their ideas on how to address them. These records will then be passed on to agriculture development programming staff and policymakers.

Integrating GIS/GPS, IVR and Radio for an Effective Feedback

Henry Baffoe, Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (Accra, Ghana)
Apr 14, 2014

Henry Baffoe of the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services in Ghana will develop an integrated system using existing technologies to gain feedback from smallholder farmers on agricultural projects that can then be analyzed by stakeholders. His team will recruit farmers from a district in Ghana, map their locations using GPS, record the type of farm, and launch an Instant Voice Response (IVR) platform, which collects responses to surveys by recording voice messages sent by mobile phone. The system will be pilot tested with a specific agricultural project and evaluate its impact on project development and farm productivity.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.