Farmers in Indonesia have begun to reap the benefits of using their mobile phones to get agricultural services following the launch of the LISA platform in December 2012.
The platform provides an information service to smallholder farmers in 30 districts of Karawang and as of April 2013, more than 400 smallholder farmers were using the platform on a regular basis.
Working closely with Mercy Corps and the Ministry of Agriculture, 8villages has successfully linked extension workers and smallholder farmers through mobile phones so that they are now able to share agriculture based information.
With 423 users in less than three months, the LISA platform has ‘pushed’ more 40,000 sms messages to farmers on various growing tips and has seen more than 1,074 requests for agriculture questions from farmers.
Through trainings on how to effectively use mobile information being conducted by the extension officers, 96 farmers groups have been formed and trained to facilitate increased sharing of information among farmers.
In December 2012, the LISA service was offered on one mobile network – Indosat but due to the increased demand a second network provider – Telkomsel has also introduced a specific branded sim for farmers called Telkomsel Hebat.
A major challenge facing the spread of the LISA platform among smallholder farmers is that the availability of experts to formally respond to farmer queries has not grown as quickly as the increase in the number of registered users. To date, there are only 30 experts available, from the Bogor Agriculture University and Extension Workers from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Given this limited number of experts, the time needed to respond to questions from farmers and agricultural extension workers is not yet in line with what was has been planned. However, the program is working towards bringing in more experts to work with the farmers and develop a database that will automatically generate responses to farmers.
LISA is a mobile phone subscription service that allows farmers to interact with other corresponding community groups based on their crops and location. Inside that group, users get daily SMS tips from 8villages and other local user-generated content. Users are also able to ask their own questions and get them answered either by other farmers or by agricultural experts from 8villages’ partners. This all works without the need for an internet connection.