JUNE 17, 2022

Educating farmers of Andra Pradesh with automated crop advisory

By Vivek Amola

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Digital Green is an organization that recognizes and works towards empowering smallholder farmers by creating a world where farmers use technology to build prosperous communities.

Last year (2021) Glific worked with DG on a Voice bot and successfully launched it for their farmers (Read more about their journey here). This year DG has planned to roll out two WhatsApp-based chatbots in the upcoming Kharif season. The bots are planned to run for 11 months starting from May’22. One bot would be launched in Andhra Pradesh with RySS and the other in Telangana, an initiative of govt of Telangana under the Saagu Baagu project.

DG – RySS Farmer chatbot

This bot will mainly focus on the farmer of Andra Pradesh in which DG and RySS will collaborate to send out crop advisories to their beneficiaries on WhatsApp via Glific.

For this season they would like to send the advisories and informative content for crops like Paddy, Chilli, Groundnut, Cotton, and Bengal gram to the farmers.

About the project

The chatbot will have a pull-based and a pushed-based mechanism and will be configured in the Telugu language. 

Push Based mechanism

A pushed-based mechanism will enable farmers to enroll for automated crop advisory as per their crop age. They can select their crop and its current age via WhatsApp and after which they start receiving the regular automated advisory messages on their WhatsApp via Glific, These advisories will help them to take required measures in time, and grow healthy crops.  Farmers having Paddy and Chilli crops for this season can enroll in the push advisory.  

As per the farmer’s daily routine and engagement metrics from the previous bot, we set the messages to send in 2 slots. 7:00 AM (Paddy) and 6:00 PM (Chilli). So that Farmers get suitable time to interact with the bot and can read and learn from the content.

Pull Based mechanism

Pull based mechanism helps farmers to get informative and action-based content about their crop whenever they want. They can easily interact with a chatbot in their WhatsApp and can select their crop and its stage and get this information. 

Farmers can get content for these 5 crops (Paddy, Chilli, Groundnut, Cotton, and Bengal gram )  anytime. 

Apart from informative content and cop advisory, to keep the farmer engagement intact, the bot also asks about their willingness to adopt the advisories being shared and also asks for the images of the farms.

Program planning

The initial target was to launch the program for 5K+ farmers of Andra Pradesh. We started working on the project around April 2022 and were looking to launch the program around Mid May.

DG team shared the Crop calendar for Paddy and Chilli crops, The messages need to be sent to the farmer as per the age/stage of their crop which they were selecting on their WhatsApp.

As the content was in Telugu there was a bit of challenge and back-n-forth involved with the DG team.

All the push messages need to approve by the WhatsApp team and it took us a few cycles to get all of them approved. We have captured our learning on how to apply for the HSM templates.

Once all the Telugu messages got approved the Tech team helped in setting the custom code base to send the message as per the crop calendar. 

So for example, if the farmer selects X crop in Y stage the automated advisory should start from that stage and move forward. Different farmers can be at different stages with different crops.

Also we followed modular flow architecture as much as we can, that made it easy to manage all the flows and also helped while making any updates.

Setting up Data analytics

Analyzing the interaction of farmers with the chatbot was worked upon in parallel with program building, We want to gather and observe the farmer’s interaction with the bot from the initial day to study their behavior and also to make sure that the automated messages are going regular.

All the required reports were set up prior to the program launch to make sure farmers’ interaction and program performance can be observed.

The team has captured their experience on this blog.

Pilot and Program Launch

A pilot run is always mandatory before the program launch to make sure everything is stitched together as expected and any feedback can be implanted without compromising the user experience. 

For this program, we had a pilot run with around 10 people consisting of DG and RySS team members working with farmers on the ground. The pilot program really helped us to get the early feedback and correct on user experience. It helped to confirm the following things.

  1. The order of push advisory is correct as per the crop calendar.
  2. The translation is correct as per the native language.
  3. Pull-based messages are showing correct informative content.
  4. Required information is getting gathered for data analytics and reporting.

Once we get the confirmation on all we were ready to launch the program. 

For the program launch, DG had shared the list of 5K farmers with opt-in details with us which we onboarded on the Glific platform and launch the program for them.

RySS will be taking help from their caders (ground workers) to make sure farmers interact with the chatbot as expected, and also can reach out to them if faced any issue 

What’s next

Currently, the program is running with 5,900+ farmers and we are observing their response. As per the data, we are also updating the program and making sure to provide a personal and effective experience to the farmers of Andra Pradesh.

DG is planning to onboard around 19k farmers on this bot in the upcoming time.

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