COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant

Herd opportunity

Sub-Saharan Africa

Building on an already established platform and user base developed through Farm.ink and ILRI’s successful collaboration, this project will rapidly deploy an interactive digital course to train livestock farmers on how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases both on and off the farm. It will also generate live data on hygiene practices and infection risk among livestock farmers through an open access data dashboard.

Many of the most important measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, such as hand washing, are vitally important practices in maintaining healthy livestock. This project sees livestock farmers as the perfect nodes through which to spread awareness of hygiene and infectious disease within their communities. By developing training in the context of animal infectious disease, this project will also train livestock farmers to manage, not only the spread of SARS-CoV-2 but many other diseases that spread among humans and livestock.

Farm.ink and ILRI’s collaboration has successfully yielded a platform that digitizes training and delivers it to smartphone-owning farmers in a highly interactive and engaging way. The platform provides real-time analysis of user data: tracking improvements in learning outcomes, survey answers, and other key metrics. COVID-19 interventions must be deployed rapidly in a scalable and replicable way and by building on an existing platform and user network we can start seeing results in less than ten weeks’ time. We will pilot the course in Kenya and forecast to reach upwards of 5,000-10,000 livestock farmers within the first four months.

We hope to scale up the training to over 250,000 farmers, across sub-Saharan Africa, over the coming two years.

Team members

Julie Ojango, ILRI, Senior Scientist

Okeyo Mwai, ILRI, Principal Scientist

Bernard Bett, ILRI, Senior Scientist

Georgia Barrie, Farm.ink, Co-founder

Adam Wills, Farm.ink, Co-founder

Inspire Challenge Team:

About the Rapid Response Grants

In response to the food security issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Platform  made funding available for agile, big-data enabled projects working to tackle food system challenges. The Inspire Challenge Rapid Response Grants, totaling up to USD100,000, were available to current or previous Inspire Challenge winners.

The partnership

Farm.ink and ILRI’s successful partnership was created through the first Inspire Challenge grant and continues to this day. Both parties bring a unique set of skills and expertise to the project. The Farm.ink team are experts in building mobile solutions for smallholder farmers in the developing world and have developed a platform that enables the rapid deployment of training content to farmer smartphones. As a world-leading organisation in livestock research, ILRI is best placed to deliver high quality, actionable training content and to design a robust M&E framework to measure the impact of this content.

This project will be building on a longstanding partnership which will ensure both its success and longevity. Farm.ink and ILRI already have a formal agreement to roll out training content to livestock farmers over the next 12 months and we expect this partnership to continue for the foreseeable future.

ILRI’s contribution to the project will be to identify source material and design the learning objectives and survey questions. They will also, with support by Farm.ink, lead on the roll-out of the course through its existing network and targeted digital marketing.

Farm.ink will create the digital course content and manage all technology (farmer-facing app, course building tool, data dashboard). Farm.ink will also lead on the publication and distribution of short insights reports.

Gender dimension

Women are estimated to make up two-thirds of the world’s poor livestock keepers, so it is essential that we understand the gendered components of this intervention. All users are asked whether they are male or female at registration meaning we can split all usage data by gender. This will enable us to answer important questions such as: are women more or less likely to be aware of current government health guidelines? Are women more or less likely to be aware of animal hygiene best practices? How do learning outcomes vary by gender?

Alongside measuring these data, we will design targeted user acquisition strategies to ensure that we reach a minimum of 50% female farmers in our user base. Farm.ink has experience designing these targeted marketing campaigns as detailed in our blog “How we closed our gender gap in 5 days.”

Project timeline

The need for careful prevention and management of livestock disease has never been more prescient. While coronavirus is unique in its global spread and impact, since the 1970s it is estimated at least three dozen infectious diseases have emerged from human interaction with animals including SARS, MERS, Ebola, bird flu and swine flu. We propose to rapidly deploy an interactive digital course to train livestock farmers in practices to prevent the spread of infectious disease both on and off the farm.

Our solution is unique in its responsiveness, readiness, and replicability. Farm.ink, in collaboration with ILRI, has already developed a technology platform that enables the rapid creation and deployment of digital training to livestock farmers. Farm.ink’s Course Builder tool turns traditional training manuals into fun, engaging, and conversational lessons. Alongside the lessons, there are multiple choice quizzes to track farmer baseline and endline knowledge and customisable surveys to collect key metrics (see our video or visit our website for more details). We are currently in the process of rolling out livestock course content through this platform and so this project is an important and timely addition to a successful pre-existing programme.

We aim to use ILRI’s expertise in the management of infectious disease to create a training course that teaches farmers to prevent the spread of disease within their communities. By focusing on COVID-19 against a wider backdrop of animal disease we can develop a long-term intervention to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 as well as the risk of further zoonotic disease outbreaks. Course themes will include the importance of handwashing, disinfecting equipment, the use of masks, and the importance of providing clean livestock housing.

Week 1-4

Dedicated to creating the digital course content using ILRI’s existing materials and Farm.ink’s Course Builder tool.

Week 5-8

Dedicated to running detailed user testing interviews and iterating the course content based on feedback from these target users. This will enable us to roll out the digital training to the first cohort of users by week nine of the project.

Week 10 onwards

we will continue to scale up the roll out of this course using ILRI and Farm.ink’s existing user networks as well as through digital advertising.

By week 12

Publicly release the data dashboard so that live insights can be shared across CGIAR, public health, and farming organizations.