The Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) held an event to celebrate the achievement of major milestones of the 8028 Farmer Hotline, which has become the largest interactive voice response/short message service (IVR/SMS) system in Africa.

Since its inception in July 2014, the 8028 Farmer Hotline has received 30 million total calls and 3.6 million registered telephone numbers, which consist of smallholder famers and agricultural Development Agents. The system was developed and launched by the ATA in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources (MoALR), Ethio Telecom, and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research.

A commemorative event was held on Tuesday 3 July 2018 as part of Ethiopia’s second International ICT Expo. Ato Khalid Bomba, CEO of ATA, Dr. Andualem Admassie, CEO of Ethio Telecom, and Dr. Eyasu Abreha, State Minister of Natural Resources at MoALR, spoke about the roles their respective institutions have played in making the system successful. Representatives of other institutions that have actively engaged with the system, such as Digital Green, CIMMYT, and Precision Agriculture for Development, also testified on the strength of the hotline to help smallholder farmers to access advisory services.

The hotline is utilized by a range of stakeholders, including policy and decision makers, in the agriculture sector. Smallholder farmers call into the 8028 Farmer Hotline to get information on farming best practices, while federal ministries and regional bureaus send SMS messages to warn smallholders of the occurrence of diseases and pests. Using this “push” functionality, the hotline has helped to alert farmers on the prevalence of crop protection issues such as what rust, maize lethal necrosis disease, and fall army worm in areas affected by these threats.

Additionally, an interactive helpdesk feature allows smallholders to get customized information from woreda experts by calling in and leaving voice messages with questions on content that is not covered by the prerecorded menu options. Nearly 5,000 such questions have received satisfactory responses from woreda experts to date. Lastly, the system contains a survey feature used by Development Agents to collect information that allows for real-time decision making by policy makers.

Beyond celebrating the hotline’s remarkable achievements, the ATA took the opportunity to recognize smallholder farmers who were milestone callers, Development Agents who have used the hotline most frequently, and the helpdesk’s top responder woreda experts. The ATA also recognized the contributions of partner institutions whose continued dedication has helped the hotline to reach its major milestones.