As the size and number of farming programmes in South Africa continue to increase dramatically, it has become an almost impossible task to successfully track information from all of these entities and even more difficult for funders to extract useful management data using non-standardised and incomplete information. TechnoServe has stepped into the breach with an innovative mobile application to solve these challenges.

It is not just a case of numbers and size increasing that has contributed to the existing problem, but also an urgent need to track more and more information that would enable us to paint a meaningful picture of the current situation in SA and help plan the way forward.

TechnoServe has partnered with social enterprise, Dimagi, to develop a mobile application that alleviates the data collection challenges by providing the technology to meet the needs created by the recent growth.

The five elements in the app together create a flow of data from farm to funder where reports are required to be generated. Information gathered on the farms is input via user-friendly online forms using laptops or Android devices and are then submitted and stored in a central database.

There is also a cloud-based Information Management System that allows access to the data from a web interface and hosts the reports to be used by management to analyse performance as well as the data collected. Management in turn can download information to the farmer.

The beauty of the system is that the forms and the reports can be customized and allow tracking of jobs, time sheets and sales for each farmer. It gives information about the jobs created and has various “monitor worker’ reports. It even gives information about crops in the ground.

To round out the picture there is also demographic information such as gender and race, GPS data, farm data (crops, irrigation system) and household data such as number of children attending school, assets owned, information such as the status of the crops and recommendations given, whether irrigation/spraying/fertiliser etc. advice was provided as well as photographic records of the farmer and his crops.

The TechnoServe field teams were trained on how to use the system this year and the system went live at the end of May 2013. Farmers have all been registered in the system and data such as sales and labour have also been inserted. This means that all beneficiary and impact data now sits on one platform.

The app provides a wealth of information that makes a meaningful contribution to the management of farming programmes and TechnoServe’s ability to measure the impact of the work they are doing.

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