Mobile phone intervention for Sri Lankan mushroom producers

Mobile phone intervention for Sri Lankan mushroom producers

Abstract

It is well-known that traditional methods of technology
dissemination are not cost-effective; and that extension
agencies are limited very much by personnel resources in
approaching the clientele they need to contact. Therefore, at
present, many sectors of the world economies are attracted to
the use of ICT for technology dissemination. However, such
interventions are not common in the agricultural sector,
especially in developing countries. Realizing this, the
Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension at the
University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka, implemented a programme
‘Lifelong Learning for Farmers’ (L3F), employing ICT as one
of its components. For this programme, the University of
Ruhuna collaborated with the mobile phone company Mobitel
(PLC) Ltd and developed an IVR (interactive voice response)
system to approach clients.
Mushroom production is essentially small-scale and remains a
cottage industry. In order to raise the living standards, it is
necessary to provide scientific information to scattered
production units. Such efforts will turn them into commercial
producers and provide an opportunity to compete in the local
and foreign markets. This investigation focuses on the use of
mobile phones for technology dissemination to small-scale
mushroom producers. The IVR system embedded different
two-minute messages employing ODL techniques over six
months. The entire series of lessons included the establishment
of a mushroom shed; the preparation of the growing medium;
filling bags and sterilization; inoculation and incubation of
mushroom spawns; harvesting; pests and disease control;
processing and preservation; seed production; and business
planning and financial management. The results showed that
5,583 clients listen to the lessons; and, according to the spatial distribution, the majority of them were from wet zone districts
as the climatic conditions are favourable for the enterprise.
However, feedback is still limited.

Keywords: intervention, mobile phones, mushrooms 

Mahinda Wijeratne and Nilantha De Silva
Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, Faculty of
Agriculture, University of Ruhuna,
Mapalana, Kamburupitiya, Sri Lanka

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