The  Talking  Book  Program

 Literacy Bridge empowers impoverished people living in areas considered the “last mile” in developing countries with locally relevant, on-demand agriculture and health information to improve their standard of living and quality of life.

At the heart of our program is the Talking Book – an innovative, low-cost audio computer designed for the learning needs of illiterate populations.

 

This short video tells the story of our history and current work:

 

 In rural Ghana, 90% of our on-demand information is put into practice by men, women, and children.

 The Talking Book has delivered more than 250,000 on demand health & farming lessons to 20,000 of the poorest people in Ghana.

The winners of “2012 Best Peanut Farmer” & “2012 Best Beans Farmer” learned exclusively from the Talking Book.

 

 

 

Problem

Over 750 million adults are illiterate and 800 million people farm in order to feed their families on their earnings of less than a dollar a day. Opportunities for illiterate adults to access knowledge and acquire new skills in remote areas of developing countries are virtually non-existent, but critical to successful development efforts and poverty reduction.

The chance for farmers to learn new farming techniques that will increase their crop yields; expecting mothers to learn how to treat and prevent life-threatening diarrhea; or children to learn basic sanitation measures is virtually non-existent. Learning these skills is critical to survival and well-being. Yet an effective on-demand method of delivery for these common knowledge practices to illiterate populations hasn’t existed, until now.

Currently, delivering agriculture information is impractical. Because of bad road conditions and remote locations, not every village is fortunate enough to have regular agriculture extension agent visits. But when an agent can reach a village, the up-to-date farming techniques shared by the agent are often times lost, shortly after that agent leaves. There is no method to take notes because so few people are literate. The same problems face health agents in their efforts to disseminate lessons on maternal and child health care and disease prevention.

Solution

But the Talking Book Program solves all of these problems. Relevant and practical information on sustainable farming methods and key health practices are produced and recorded in partnership with local government agencies and non-government agencies to meet community needs. This results in higher crop yields, improved nutrition, and a dramatic reduction of preventable deaths.

In 2009, Literacy Bridge first piloted an agriculture study with the Talking Book in the Upper West Region of Ghana. A village was elected that met the criteria of our target population: Low literacy rates, high rural population in poverty, lack of electricity, low levels of internet access, medium to high expenditure to extension services (agriculture and health), accessible decision makers and low government corruption. The success that resulted from the pilot grew the initial study into a formal Talking Book Program that focuses on two main areas: Agriculture and Maternal and Child Health.

Our reach has grown from one small village, to sixteen villages but more importantly the number of people impacted by The Talking Book program has grown from 970 to more than 20,000.

This growth is attributed in part to our donors, but also because of a strong ground strategy and fundamentals. We reached out to local experts from the beginning and were able to partner with them on the Talking Book Program. Our comprehensive program hires local community agents who facilitate sharing of the Talking Books among community members on an ongoing basis. The program operations and the Talking Book’s content are assessed regularly and reiterated upon through a consistent monitoring and evaluations process. That allows us to study activities during the program’s implementation phase. A post evaluation study is then done in order to determine the degree of impact.