New Guide Highlights How Technology Can Improve Training of Smallholder Farmers

The guide outlines strategies for using digital tools to increase the effectiveness and scale of training for the world’s millions of unconnected farmers

Arlington, VA — Amid rising interest in the use of technology to enhance training in the international development and agricultural sectors, TechnoServe has published a new guide, Digitally Enabled Training for Unconnected Farmers: Using Digital Tools to Reach Smallholder Farmers with Limited Access to Communications Technology. Made possible by support from the Wellspring Foundation and Vitol Foundation, the document highlights approaches that governments, nonprofits, and the private sector can use to leverage technology to improve training, even forfarmers who can’t directly access digital training resources.

Spurred in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant uptick in efforts to provide training to farmers and entrepreneurs using digital platforms and tools, focusing primarily on individuals with stable, consistent access to the internet. However, this risks leaving a large segment of the population behind: in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, just 28% of the population uses mobile internet, and women, rural residents, and those living in poverty are particularly likely to lack access to an internet connection.

How then can digital tools be used to enhance training for the millions of farmers who are not connected to the internet? To answer that question, the new guide draws from TechnoServe’s experience in Latin America, Africa, and India, a review of published research on the topic, and the Agriculture in the Digital Age dataset. It focuses on three recommendations:

Use digital tools to train farmer trainers 

Harnessing digital platforms in a blended, remote-and-in-person approach to training field teams can ensure that they receive timely, consistent, and effective information that they can then share with farmers through traditional in-person delivery. In Benin, TechnoServe programs have  developed an online, mobile training course that is building the capacity of farmer trainers today and can continue to be used by stakeholders after the programs’ completion.

Augment in-person training with video and audio

Even if video and audio can’t be delivered directly to farmers remotely,  incorporating these tools into in-person training has demonstrated improved learning and adoption of new practices, as well as spillover effects. Furthermore, standardized visual and audio content reduces the burden on trainers and enables them to focus more on farmer engagement. In Nigeria, TechnoServe’s Business Women Connect program deployed videos in conjunction with in-person training on demonstration plots, finding that this improved engagement and motivation for the women farmers enrolled in the program, particularly as the videos featured women who could be seen as role models.

Incorporate appropriate digital tools for remote and blended learning, based on farmers’ access to technology

Among farmers who lack access to mobile internet, many still have other communications technologies, like feature phones and radios. As a result, SMS messaging, phone calls and interactive voice response services, and radio programming can be effective when used in conjunction with in-person training. The Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas program is using a range of outreach techniques, including radio and SMS, to reinforce learnings and encourage best-practice adoption among farmers.

“The evolution of digital tools is opening many exciting opportunities, but it’s essential that we continue to develop solutions for the millions of farmers who don’t have access to new technology,” said Dave Hale, director of TechnoServe Labs, the organization’s initiative to identify, test, and implement solutions that can transform the lives of millions of hardworking people across the global south. “We are proud to offer this guide as part of that effort, and we hope that it will contribute to the work of the private sector, development organizations, and governments to raise yields and incomes for farmers around the world.”

The full guide can be found at:


About TechnoServe

TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A non-profit organization operating in 30 countries, we work with hard-working men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries. By linking people to information, capital, and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities. 

Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by an independent charity ratings agency.More information at: Facebook: @TechnoServe | Twitter: @TechnoServe | LinkedIn: @TechnoServe