Towards Large Scale Decision Support for Farmers: Site and Season Specific Advice in Malawi

Africa RISING researchers review and synthesize maize management key practices with Malawi government  for Central Malawi and Southern Malawi, utilizing Viamo’s best practices SBCC guide.
Simultaneously: Viamo to conduct focus groups (FG) with farmers participating with Africa RISING and Malawi extension to uncover ways in which farmers find content engaging (e.g. man's versus woman's voice, framed as authoritative or more playful) and also identify other preferences (e.g. how many calls, what time of day, etc.) utilizing Viamo’s FG field guide. 
Viamo develops the first round scripts and record said scripts to be utilized for Interactive Voice Response (IVR) based on input from Africa RISING and Viamo to field-test the sound files iteratively with a group of ~50 farmers within the geographic zones in Machinga where this pilot will be conducted.  
Africa RISING Researchers collaborate with Viamo to implement a test of IVR during the 2019 crop season (starting Fall 2018), with ~280 farmers in Machinga Southern Malawi from four ‘panel’ areas, based on the availability of historical yield data and farm practices. In October, meetings were held in the three pilot areas (Ntubwi, Nsanama, Nyambi and Ntiya Extension Planning Areas) with farmers who consent to participate, and be randomly assigned to two groups, a treatment group (specific IVR advice, these farmers will be pushed content and allowed to call into the specific hotline), control (only usual access to 321 line).  

We will be pushing 2 messages a week with questions such as "Have you planted your maize seed yet, press 1 for yes and 2 for now" at the end of the key messages --> Once the caller indicates they have planted we will then ask "Did you apply NPK fertilizer at the time of PLANTING maize? press 1 for yes and 2 for no.  
Outputs will include calendar profiles for each location, including mean and variation for timing of farmer maize management practices. Another output will be a synthesis of what works for IVR, doesn’t work for IVR, farmer perception of the content received via IVR and behavior of the two treatment groups, as well as improved predictions. 
Another output will be developed by MSU geographers, a geospatial information framework to deliver high spatial and temporal resolution guidance and seasonal climate information in the small-holder context – this will be initiated in March 2019, and a draft product delivered by July 2019 to support scaling out efforts over the 2020 season.