World Cocoa Foundation / COCOBOD / Ghana - Assess and evaluate the system's requirements to enable COCOBOD manage the CocaLink platform
Over the years, a lack of infrastructure and financial capacity has impeded extension services, especially in the cocoa sector in Ghana. However, since the early 2000s, innovative alternatives for agricultural information were explored and piloted in different sectors. In 2011, A partnership between World Cocoa Foundation and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) led to the implementation of an innovative program, which offers a cost-effective mechanism to enhance the provision of farmer extension services, i.e., CocoaLink. The CocoaLink program provided the digital solution that supported the delivery of extension services through COCOBOD's Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease Control Unit using mobile phone technology.
The CocoaLink platform was established through collaborative efforts from the World Cocoa Foundation, COCOBOD and funded by the Hershey Company. Using mobile phone technology, the cost-effective platform was designed to deliver cocoa-specific agronomic information, allowing farmers to request and obtain timely farming and marketing information. After the 3-year pilot program, the platform was handed over to COCOBOD in 2014. To successfully manage the platform, World Cocoa Foundation contracted Bewsys to assess and evaluate the system's requirements and provide the needed capacity training required.
Bewsys was contracted by World Cocoa Foundation to evaluate the capacity and performance of the CocoaLink platform, assess expansion requirements and capacity building of their IT staff. The Bewsys consulting team conducted secondary research to understand better the project's systems requirements, system features, and functions. The team interacted with key project partners and stakeholders, including World Education, Inc., COCOBOD, Word Cocoa Foundation, and DreamOval, to understand their contribution to the project.
Following that, a comprehensive review of the software requirements of the platform was accessed and subsequently reported on. The data collated helped the team effectively report on the capacity and performance of the current CocoaLink platform and the capacity-building requirements to host and manage the platform.
The report elaborated some recommendations regarding the level of human resource and equipment capacity investment the COCOBOD management team needs to consider within specifically stated timelines. In working closely with the World Cocoa Foundation and COCOBOD, the Bewsys consulting team successfully presented a report on the study's findings for effective decision-making and implementation.
The recommendations from the Bewsys consulting team provided COCOBOD with the software and capacity-building needs of the CocoaLink platform. At the project's inception, 45,000 Ghanaian cocoa farmers in 1,800 communities were registered and benefited economically as their yields increased significantly by 45.6% in three years. More farmers have access to mobile phones now compared to 2011. The benefits of using mobile phones to improve agriculture are significant to an economy like Ghana's. CocoaLink is progressing the achievement of SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 8 (decent work and economic growth), and 15 (life on land).