Archive for the ‘Ghana Pilot’ Category

Nadowli's Thoughts on Livestock and Talking Books

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Here is what Nadowli Kuubataanono had to say about the impact of Talking Books on rearing her livestock:

In rearing our animals we didn’t know we were supposed to vaccinate the animals in certain seasons, so that animal disease would not kill them but now we have been listening to these devices and we have learnt ways to keep our animals healthy. These are some of the benefits I get from the Talking Book.


Nadowli holding her Talking Book

Nadowli holding her Talking Book

That when furs of an animal are erected, and has a running snotty nose, it is a sign that the animal is sick and that it is important to notify the veterinarian so that the disease can be treated. We also feed them very well especially when they are sick, every morning we will sweep the pent before we go and cut some leaves and come and hang them in the pent for the animals to feed on.  With good feeding and care, they will get well in about a two to three weeks and you can even give them a bath if they appear dirty, or if you want to sell it, bathe it first before you send it to the market and it will be sold very quickly. If you don’t know how to do all of these things (taking care of the animals, good feeding, and grooming them before you send it to the market) you will not be able to make profit when you sell them. I think that is a very helpful thing for us.


Nadowli's Thoughts on Farming and Talking Books

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Here is what Nadowli Kuubataanono had to say about the impact of Talking Books on health and her effectiveness as a Traditional Birth Attendant:

In the part of farming, before this device we didn’t know better ways to plant our crops and harvest a good yield or efficient ways to store them for later consumption or sale. We didn’t know to buy food during the harvesting season, so that when the prices of food goes up later in the year, we will still have food to eat. It is very helpful for us to know this because we can now buy food cheaply and store them efficiently for later consumption.

Ray Suglo Responds to Nadowli's Interview

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Ray Suglo lives in Virgina with his wife and son, but he grew up in the small village of Ving Ving, where Literacy Bridge pilot tested 21 Talking Books.  He has been generous enough to translate recordings from the village, including the interview with Nadowli Kuubataanono.  When Ray heard what Nadowli had to say about the impact of Talking Books on health in Ving-Ving, which was similar to what he was hearing from his cousins and friends in Ving Ving, he sent me this email:

Growing up in Ving Ving, I was one of the few children who was able to attend school.  When I reached secondary school I focused on agricultural studies.  I came home with knowledge about new farming techniques that could be used to increase yield and told my family members about the techniques.  I tried to teach them that burning the bush to clear the land for farming would deplete the land of nutrients.  They told me that what I told them was not true, because they believed that the land was just going bad naturally and their parents had burned the land before them – it was just the way things were done.  They refused to try the new techniques because they thought I was merely a child.

However, when people hear the same advice that I was taught in school, but they hear this advice from the TalkBook, they believe it.  They have respect for the people they hear on the device and actually put the theories into practice.  Now they are seeing how these simple changes to how they farm can actually increase their yield.  By bringing agricultural information directly from the talkbook to the people, the theories are having a much stronger effect.  The land is being used more efficiently and families are enjoying more food to eat and crops to sell.  In the same way, a traditional birth attendant (TBA) in the village said that the talkbook is making the women of the village believers in her medicine.  The women in the village were reluctant to believe her advice, but she says that now that they have listened to this device they are finally following her teachings.  The women are having more healthy pregnancies, resulting in more healthy babies.

Thank you,
Ray P. Suglo.

Nadowli's Thoughts on Health and Talking Books

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Here is what Nadowli Kuubataanono had to say about the impact of Talking Books on health and her effectiveness as a Traditional Birth Attendant:

In the part of our children’s health, there were so many things we didn’t know about raising healthy children but due to the Talking Book, we listen and learn healthy ways to raise our children. The fact that other mothers hear the same things [from the device] that we try to teach them about raising children make them take our efforts seriously and believe that we’re telling them the truth about how keep our kids growing healthy and strong.

Meet Nadowli Kuubataanono, a Traditional Birth Attendant

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
Nadowli, a traditional birth attendant in northern Ghana

Nadowli, a traditional birth attendant in northern Ghana

While Literacy Bridge was evaluating our seven-month feasibility study in the Upper West Region of Ghana last August, we conducted a number of video interviews.  These interviews took place in Ving-Ving, a remote village without access to electricity that is home to about 1000 people.  One of the more interesting interviews was with Nadowli Kuubataanono.  She had a lot to say about her use of the Talking Book, but let’s start by allowing her to introduce herself and then follow with her other thoughts on health, agriculture, participatory democracy, and Talking Books.

My name is Nadowli Kuubataanono.  I am a Traditional Birth Attendant that cares for children here in Ving-Ving. Some women who are newly pregnant are shy to come out for the care they need.  It is our duty to find those women and give them the necessary coaching to get them through those feelings and come out for the treatment they need. They need the monthly checkups and the medications to get through a successful pregnancy and to ease their labor pain. We always try as much we can to find women that are hiding their pregnancies and educate them on the importance of these treatments, and usually those who receive all the medications and vaccines have less painful and more successful deliveries without complications after nine months. But those who are hard headed and refuse these treatments mostly end up with difficult and painful pregnancies and some require hospitalization. We try our best to help everybody out so that when it comes to due date they can have a successful delivery. We also follow up on women who are not taking their babies out for the monthly checkups because it is through these checkups that they can tell how much the child is growing. If the child’s weight is declining, the health officials will tell them so they can change their diets. We teach the mothers about choosing and cooking healthy meals that are good for the child’s growth and development. We also make sure that mothers of young children understand the importance of child immunization and help them keep up with it so that the children will grow well and healthy.

But that is not all, I am also a member of the food committee.  I see to the provision of food for school children. We see to it that food is provided to children at school to help prevent truancy and improve academic performance.

We also work with RAAP [a local NGO], they give us animals to raise. Our group has goats which we are rearing.

And I am still a farmer too, that is what I do to get food.  I also have a sewing machine which I use to earn some money to buy soap.  That is what I do in Ving-Ving here.

Impact of Talking Books in Ghana

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

After using Talking Books for six months, farmers in the village of Ving-Ving, Ghana, decided to share their thoughts on the impact it has had on their lives.  None of these farmers speak English, but one of our volunteers typed up a direct translation for us (thanks, Irenious!).

Here is a quote from one of our users:

My name is Bampuo Kaming-nyelle.   I am a farmer who lives here in Ving-Ving.  If you check, those of us who live here depend mainly on farming.  We don’t take schooling as much as we are farming.  Back in the days we used to clear large amounts of land but we didn’t harvest much compared to nowadays since the agriculture department came out and is teaching us about farming.  For instance we used to not plant groundnuts (peanuts) in lanes and didn’t fertilize with manure.  Now the agriculture people record lessons with the “literacy talk book” so we can listen and learn about the new methods of farming.  They taught us that we can plant peanuts in lanes and apply manure after weeding.  About maize they taught us that we can sow two seeds in one hole, the holes in lanes, and we can apply manure after successful germination.  Millet is major crop that we plant a lot, and the agriculture personnel taught us that they will not grow well if they are overcrowded.  On the part of animal rearing, we were just rearing them without knowing what is best for their growth.  They taught us that, if the animals are sick, we should report to the personnel and they will come and examine the sick animals; and that we should separate the sick animals from healthy ones.  I think that since we were not applying fertilizer to our crops (because we couldn’t afford it), the agric personnel told us that we can come to their office and they will loan us fertilizer to apply to the crops.  I think that this device is bringing information to those of us in the villages about farming and it is helping us a lot in what we do.

Talking Books in Ghana

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Here’s the latest email update sent out to people on Literacy Bridge’s email list.

I’d like to tell you a few stories about Literacy Bridge’s Ghana pilot program. Four of us brought 68 Talking Books to Ghana in January, working alongside Andrew Bayor, Literacy Bridge’s country director for Ghana. Aside from Andy and myself were two amazing interns from MIT (Emily Jean Onufer and R Tharu) and an impressive Seattle photographer (Scott Sweeney), whose talent can be seen in this email and on our website.

I hope you enjoy these stories and that you look forward to more.

I do have one small request — if you have a minute to vote for additional funding for our project, please see the end of this email to learn about an unusual experiment in philanthropy.

Best regards,

Talking Books in School

Our two interns worked closely with Ghanaian primary schools last January to learn how Talking Books could complement existing school curricula. As expected, the children were crazy about the devices! It was quite common for an experienced group of students to join a new classroom to teach those students how to use the device. And none of us will forget Jalayla, who lived near our work site and spent hours playing with a Talking Book, until he had memorized every lesson on it.

classroom-wide-medWe learned many things during these weeks. For instance, we underestimated the interest that students, teachers, and headmasters had in creating student recordings. We also learned how important it is to ensure teachers get plenty of time using the devices before introducing them in the classrooms.

See other literacy scenarios for the device.

Magazines in a Waiting Room

Over the last year, we’ve collaborated with health professionals on this project. But it wasn’t until after we left the pilot area that we received reports of local health clinics using the Talking Books like magazines in a waiting room. People waiting to be seen outside rural health clinics are now passing around Talking Books to listen to a series of preventative health tips recorded by clinic nurses. It’s no surprise that the most innovative uses for the Talking Book will come from local people.

See other ways the Talking Book can spread knowledge.

KISSS: Keep is Simple, Simple, Simple!

Our Talking Book needs an audio menu to guide users to the different features. We designed what we thought was a pretty simple interface before testing it with users. Within a few days we realized we didn’t make it simple enough. After watching dozens of men, women, and children spend too long learning to use the device, we realized that we could remove a couple features and drastically simplify the menu.

Mother and baby with Talking BookWe originally thought a “title audio track” would be helpful for finding the right recordings, but we found it complicated the processes for recording and browsing. We also learned that having the user confirm their recording after first playback did more harm than good.

Fortunately, the device can be easily reprogrammed by editing a text file. Using a laptop, a generator, a gallon of fuel, and a long night of work, we had all the devices reprogrammed by the next day. The immediate positive feedback was one of the most rewarding memories of our trip.

Here is what the village of Ving-Ving is saying about the device.

Talking About Talking Books
We’ve had about a dozen articles written about our work since our last email update. You can find articles about us on CNET, engadget, Modern Ghana, and the Mumbai Mirror.
Take a look at recent articles about our work.
An Unusual Experiment in Philanthropy

With a simple online vote, you could help Literacy Bridge get a significant increase in funding!

Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, is trying an interesting experiment — charitable giving based on your votes and expressions of support (see One of our earliest donors has already nominated us (thanks, Rod!).

Please express your support for the Talking Book project by voting for our project. You’ll need to use a Google/Gmail account to vote. If you don’t have one, it’s as simple as using any email address and creating a password — it takes about 20 seconds (just click “Sign In” and then click on the “Get Started” button if you don’t already have account).

If you have two more minutes, share your thoughts about this project with others at

Click here to vote for more funding for the Talking Book project!

Hundreds of you have donated your time or money to this project. Without you, these stories would not have been possible. It’s truly inspiring that so many people are joining together to help a small nonprofit take on such a big idea: “accessible knowledge for all”. Thanks to you, we are well on our way!