The Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ethio Telecom and Ethiopian Public Health Institute, has incorporated and deployed livestock advisory and COVID 19 health advisory contents on its 8028 Farmers Hotline. The new contents are currently available in five local languages (Amharic, Afan Oromo, Tigrigna, Wolaytigna and Sidamigna).

According to United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 2018), the livestock sector where about 1.3 billion people are dependent on for their livelihood contributes to 40 percent of Global agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Ethiopia’s livestock is one of the largest in Africa, contributing nearly 20 percent of the country’s GDP, and 15 percent of export earnings (FAO, 2019). The livestock sub-sector supports the livelihoods of about 80 percent of rural people in Ethiopia.

“Farmers across Ethiopia should have easy access to crucial and relevant information for them to make informed decisions regardless of their locations. Moreover, they should also have updates regarding the current pandemic that is challenging the world so that they can protect themselves, their families as well as their community. Hence, we have decided to team up with our partners to ensure delivery of important and up-to-date livestock and COVID-19 information to our smallholder farmers using 8028 farmers toll-free hotline services in a way they can easily access it.” ATA CEO Khalid Bomba said.

Dr. Fikru Regassa, State Minster for Livestock Development at MoA said “Livestock is one of the primary assets of Ethiopian farmers with enormous contribution to livelihood/income, household nutrition, employment opportunity, and other social obligations. Besides, it has been making significant contributions to country’s foreign earnings.  Thus, it is highly important to provide smallholder livestock producers with the necessary information and updates on improved production and management practices, and COVID19 prevention mechanisms. That’s why we have partnered with our key stakeholders to ensure that farmer get the proper advisory service while at the same time protecting themselves from the current pandemic”.

Ethio Telecom has been always our partner in supporting crop producing smallholder farmers using the 8028 Farmers’ hotline service. So far, the 8028 Farmers’ hotline has received approximately 46.5 million calls from smallholder farmers that has been provided by Ethio Telecom as a toll-free service.

The 8028 Farmers’ Hotline livestock is an additional advisory service launched to provide necessary information in four major livestock categories: Dairy, fattening (Cattle and small ruminant), Apiculture, and poultry (small scale commercial poultry and Improved household Poultry). The advisory service also makes the consumption of technologies with improved management practices in feed resource production and utilization of proven technologies easier with little demonstration and engagement of dedicated extension workers which has become difficult following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cognizant of the challenges of the current pandemic, the ATA, in collaboration with Mercy Corps Ethiopia and Ethiopia Public Health Institute (EPHI), has launched the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) service on COVID 19 for 8028 Farmers Hotline system users. Users can now get COVID 19 health advisories focusing on Safe Farming, Family and Community Interaction, Handling COVID death and Myths.

John Mundy, the Mercy Corps AgriFin Program’s Desert Locust & Covid-19 Emergency Manager & Digital Climate Smart Agriculture Lead explained “The role of digital channels has been critical in addressing COVID-19 information gaps with smallholder farmers who are often located in difficult to reach rural areas. With this in mind, we have teamed up with ATA’s 8028 Farmers Hotline Project team to deliver best ways of maintaining one’s own health as well as keeping the community safe from COVID-19”. The incorporation of this service will serve crucial in rural areas where medical services and facilities are highly scarce. It will also be more efficient in delivering health lessons to remotely located farmers especially COVID 19 without any need for appearing physically.

The Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) has launched 8028 agronomic advisory IVR/ SMS service  in partnership the Ministry of Agriculture, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research and Ethio Telecom after going through a five month pilot test  in 21 Woredas of Oromia, Amhara, SNNPR and Tigray in 2014. With six years of uninterrupted service, Users of the 8028 Farmers Hotline and help desk system have been accessing information about 21 crop types across cereals, pulses and oilseeds and household irrigation crops across a wide range of agricultural activities with content length of up to five minutes.

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