Farmers Turn to WhatsApp for Advice and Better PurchasesBy Jan Hogewoning | Wed, 08/05/2020 - 08:10
Last month, the national phytosanitary agency SENASICA explained that to continue its technical assistance to farmers, the agency had resorted to digital channels. These included digital meetings, as well as remote inspections of footage and documentation. Now farmers in Coahuila are reportedly lauding the use of WhatsApp as a communication tool between themselves, technicians and suppliers; SinEmbargo reports. While WhatsApp may be taken for granted as a medium of communication nowadays, the COVID-19 response has made its usefulness ever clearer now that physical meetings have been impeded.
One of the programs providing technical assistance to farmers in Coahuila is MasAgro. Its goal is to increase the use of innovative and sustainable farming methods. A local trainer working in the program, Baldomero Mazcorro, commented on the use of WhatsApp to SinEmbargo: “We saw that this strategy has been very favorable to us, very simple and the producer handles it. It is not as complicated as others types of communication. Producers are very happy.”
The advantage of Whatsapp is that it can gather large groups in one space and facilitate conversation that would otherwise not occur due to distances between farmers. SinEmbargo reports that multiple WhatsApp groups have been created in farming communities, one with as many as 97 members. In the group chats, new information on issues such as ecological pest management is being shared and discussed. Doubts can be expressed and advice can be given. Farmers have also reportedly started to inquire about new topics that where not covered in MasAgro training sessions.
Another interesting development facilitated by WhatsApp, Mazcorro stated, is more coordination of centralized purchases of goods such as fertilizers and seeds. With greater collaboration, farmers can group orders to get better transport prices. "I started to realize that producers were saying 'I want four bags of corn, I want five bags of sorghum, etc.' and we put together 100 bags. The provider thus only makes one trip and from MX$1,200 (US$55), the cost a sack of corn dropped to MX$950 (US$43),” said Mazcorro. At the same time, farmers can check whether they are getting a fair price, and as a collective they are more likely to have more bargaining power, he stated. The purchase of goods is not just limited to seeds and fertilizers, but also other materials for farms.
Mazcorro expects the use of WhatsApp to continue even after the pandemic. For now, it is proving vital in continuing the efforts of important development programs. MasAgro is a program set up by government entities and the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT). To learn more about the program, read our interview with Director General of CIMMYT Martin Kropff, here.