1 Introduction and Background

Agricultural production in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is dominated by smallholder farmers, and sweetpotato is among the most widely grown and consumed food crops (Low et al. 2009). The crop has several advantages for resource-poor households. It produces reliable yields even with minimum inputs, and it is rich in carbohydrates and micronutrients. The orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) varieties are especially rich in provitamin A (Low et al. 2017). The sweetpotato has proven its value in post disaster recovery due to its early maturity. But the crop’s advantages are only realized if the vegetatively propagated planting materials are available for timely and early planting. In areas with a long dry season, the most common way farmers source planting material is from roots that were left in the field from a previous crop, which then sprout at the start of the rains. However, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks to produce enough vines for planting material, which may have accumulated sweetpotato virus diseases, weevils, and other pests, affecting future yields and quality of the harvested roots. This results in a shortage of timely, quality planting material at the start of the rains. Some households may have access to water or to land near wetlands, which can be used to conserve planting material over the dry season. But many households prioritize this land for high-value horticultural crops rather than for conserving sweetpotato planting material. Furthermore, female and resource-poor farmers may have poor access to these wetlands.

1.1 The Potential of Triple S

Triple S (Storage in Sand and Sprouting) is system that allows households to store sweetpotato roots during the dry season and use them to multiply vines to use as planting material. Triple S can be used for any sweetpotato variety. The method requires less labor than maintaining vines throughout the dry season, requires little watering, minimizes exposure to pests and diseases, and produces clean and early planting material. This can increase the productivity of sweetpotato and extend the period in which it can be cultivated. As rainy seasons become shorter and less predictable, farmers can use Triple S to take advantage of the whole growing season, planting right at the start of the rains, to harvest early and obtain food, higher yields, and income. Triple S can be used in areas with a dry season of 4 months or longer. The warm, semiarid and tropical savanna climate zones in Africa are potential areas for using Triple S. A key contribution of this innovation is to facilitate household retention and adoption of new sweetpotato varieties, notably the beta-carotene-rich, orange-fleshed varieties.

1.2 Validation of Triple S and Bottlenecks for Scaling

Building on farmer seed management practices (i.e., using vines which resprout from roots after the rains), the Triple S technology was first validated in Uganda and Tanzania between 2009 and 2010 (Namanda 2012; Namanda et al. 2013). Farmers who piloted Triple S testified to its potential to solve the chronic shortage sweetpotato planting materialFootnote 1 at the start of the rainy season. Between 2015 and 2017, training and testing was conducted with additional varieties and in places with dry seasons up to 9 months long, in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The project “Scaling Sweetpotato Triple S PLUS – gender responsive options for quality planting material, higher yields and extended shelf life for storage roots” supported the scaling of Triple S in Ethiopia and Ghana in 2018–2020. There had been wide distribution of OFSP planting materials in many countries in SSA, but in areas with a long dry season, farmers still struggled to retain the new varieties. Triple S could help address this challenge, but there were bottlenecks to scaling. These included overcoming gender-based constraints to access information and developing appropriate partnering strategies. In many contexts, sourcing and managing sweetpotato seed is the responsibility of women. Triple S is a knowledge-intensive technology which requires training and information at key steps throughout the season. However, extension services often overlook or do not appropriately target female farmers who may have low literacy levels, little time to attend trainings and limited access to extension agents; thus women are at a disadvantage in being able to acquire the knowledge necessary to try out a technology. Even if they can access information, women may have limited access to productive resources, such as land and equipment, to put their knowledge into practice. Thus, effective scaling would require gender-responsive communication materials, channels, and innovations to address these constraints. Moreover, as a research organization, for the Triple S PLUS innovation package to be institutionalized and scaled, we at the International Potato Center (CIP) needed to identify new types of partners to work with, who could effectively engage with both men and women. Therefore, as part of the scaling initiative, the project team developed the Triple S PLUS innovation package to address these bottlenecks, so that the technology could be scaled to enable the long-term and sustainable adoption of improved orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties. Triple S PLUS is the combined package of the core Triple S system, plus the complementary components that were used to scale the innovation. These included good agricultural practices (GAPs), options for men and women to use the stored roots as seed or as food for a longer part of the year, and a multimedia information and communication strategy to train farmers.

The chapter starts by illustrating how an assessment of the level of scaling readiness (Sartas et al. 2020a) of the components of Triple S PLUS informed our theory of change, scaling approach, and partnering strategy in Ethiopia and Ghana. It shows how we changed our partnering strategy as we found that the scaling readiness of certain components was not as high as originally assessed. We then describe how exposure to different types and combinations of communication channels influenced the use of Triple S by male and female farmers and their perceptions about the efficacy of the different communication channels. We argue that while we were able to achieve relatively high levels of participation of women in demonstrations and in video screening events, there was still a gender gap in early use of the components of Triple S. This may have been due to several other constraints such as the type of communication tools used, differences between women’s and men’s access to starter seed and intra-household decision-making. The chapter concludes with a discussion on the implications of these findings for future scaling of Triple S PLUS and agricultural innovations in general.

2 The Triple S PLUS Innovation Package and Scaling Readiness

2.1 Triple S Cycle

Figure 12.1 shows the Triple S cycle, which starts with production and selection of medium-sized healthy roots. The seed roots are sourced from a crop produced by following recommended management protocols (Namanda et al. 2013) and Triple S training guidelines: good agricultural practices for the production of sweetpotato roots, negative selection (roguing), positive selection (growing plants are monitored and the best ones are pegged for selection at harvest), and management of weevils through remaking ridges (hilling up) to cover the cracks in the soil through which weevils can enter (Stathers et al. 2017). The roots are then carefully harvested, checked for pests, mechanical damage and disease symptoms, and then the selected roots are cured,Footnote 2 graded, and arranged in layers of sand in a container (plastic or locally available alternative). The size of the container varies depending on how many roots are stored, ranging from old basins and jerry cans to larger, purpose-built structures such as pits and sandboxes built from mud bricks. The roots are stored over the dry season, usually for 4 to 6 months. During storage, the roots’ metabolic rate slows down, but eventually the roots start to sprout. Farmers check the roots on a regular basis to de-sprout if necessary and remove any spoiled roots. At 6 to 8 weeks before the anticipated start of the rains, farmers plant out the sprouted roots in a root seed bed which is protected from grazing animals. Farmers irrigate the root seed bed until the start of the rains when they can harvest the vines to use as planting material for root production. Over three harvests, each seed root can produce 30–40 cuttings, so 100 seed roots (stored in sand in two small basins) can produce about 12,000 cuttings, enough to plant a field of almost 0.4 hectares.

Fig. 12.1
figure 1

The Triple S cycle (Stathers et al. 2017)

What constitutes a meaningful and viable innovation package depends on the context, which implies that the innovation package can change over time and is likely to differ across locations (Sartas et al. 2020b). During piloting and validation in different countries, changes were made to the Triple S technology to fit local environmental conditions, production practices, and socio-economic contexts. In northern Ethiopia (Tigray), larger roots were used for Triple S because they were more likely to survive the seven to 9-month-long dry season. Also, planting out in the root seed bed was delayed to the start of the rainy season, to align with the local sweetpotato production calendar for planting sweetpotato. Similarly, the composition of an innovation package may need to vary for different types of farmers according to their context and means (Glover et al. 2016; Sartas et al. 2020b). In Malawi, farmers wanted to store roots for use as food in addition to seed (Abidin et al. 2016), so adaptation included the use of larger structures such as sandboxes and stepped pits, which were later also used in Ghana (Fig. 12.2).

Fig. 12.2
figure 2

Preparation of stepped pit (l) and sand box (r) Navrongo, Ghana. (Photo credit: P. Abidin)

“Innovation readiness” refers to the demonstrated capacity of an innovation to fulfill its promise or contribute to specific development outcomes in specific locations. The innovation progresses from an untested idea to a fully mature practice being used by farmers or other value chain actors without input by the researcher. “Innovation use” indicates the level of use of the innovation or the package by a project, partners, and society. “Scaling readiness” of an innovation is a function of innovation readiness and innovation use. Table 12.1 defines for each level of technology readiness and use. At the start of the scaling intervention, the technology readiness of Triple S was between stages seven and eight on this scale and technology use between 0 and 2 (Tables 12.2 and 12.3).

Table 12.1 Definition of each stage of technology readiness and use
Table 12.2 Example of unpacking core components and understanding scaling readiness: Ghana, March 2018
Table 12.3 Example of unpacking complementary components and understanding scaling readiness: Ghana, March 2018

2.2 Triple S PLUS Innovation Package

In preparation for scaling, we (the co-authors as the project team) had included GAPs and gender-responsive communication materials as complementary components to form the Triple S PLUS innovation package. The Ethiopia and Ghana country teams used the scaling readiness tools to unpack the Triple S PLUS innovation package, i.e., the core technology and complementary components needed for successful scaling. Our assessment and discussions resulted in an increase in the complementary components, and so the final Triple S PLUS innovation package included (1) a quality seed production system through the National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) and decentralized vine multipliers (DVMs), (2) good agricultural practices, and (3) a gender-responsive, multimedia information, and communication approach.

Videos and demonstrations on how to use the OFSP roots were also considered important. Initially there was no funding for this component, although later partners were able to include it. Experience had shown that farmers and researchers could adapt the core components of Triple S in different environmental and social contexts, and so the technical readiness was high. But not all complementary components had been tested in different contexts, and so the technical readiness and extent of use varied by component and country. Tables 12.2 and 12.3 show the core and complementary components of the Triple S innovation package identified for Ghana. The technology readiness of the core components scored high, between seven and eight out of ten (Table 12.2). This reflected the extensive research into the biophysical elements of Triple S, such as the use of different sizes of roots, types of storage media, and containers. However, technology use scored low (between zero and two), because use had remained within a project sphere under the control of the International Potato Center (CIP).

At that point independent use of Triple S by other organizations had only happened in Uganda (personal observation, Sam Namanda). Table 12.3 illustrates the actions that were agreed upon after discussing the scaling readiness of the complementary components. This highlighted areas where improvement was required, e.g., (1) emphasis on negative and positive selection during training and demonstrations, (2) partnering strategies and work plans that would need to be reoriented to ensure that both spouses could receive training, and (3) outsourcing, e.g., production of training videos. Conducting the scaling readiness exercise revealed that in Ghana we did not have easy to understand, illustrated, gender-responsive communication tools in the local language that reflected diverse gender and cultural contexts. So, these had to be developed and tested.

The process of unpacking scaling readiness also helped us realize that we had not yet addressed what would be required for sustained use of Triple S beyond the project context. These included enabling factors related to marketing, policy, value chain linkages, service provision, attitude and behavior change, education, and infrastructure. For example, Triple S is a technical innovation, intended to increase productivity and availability of surplus fresh roots for sale. But without access to a vibrant market for fresh roots, farmers would not be interested in adopting the Triple S technology. To demonstrate this, because the OFSP market was poorly developed in both countries, it was necessary to link with other projects that increased demand for sweetpotato by raising awareness about its health benefits and improving options for processing OFSP into popular convenience foods such as bread, crisps, and yoghurt. Therefore, cooking demonstrations, video, and radio messages were developed to create demand and promote local processing options. Understanding the level of scaling readiness of the different components informed our theory of change, scaling approach, and partnership strategy. The same process for assessing technology readiness and use was followed in Ethiopia. There were some differences in scoring which reflected previous in-country experiences with using the technology and context-specific approaches for partnerships and scaling.

Our initial theory of change proposed that face-to-face training (with practical demonstrations) was effective but also costly when done at scale, and diffusion of technology would not always occur spontaneously (Glover et al. 2016). Therefore, multimedia communication including demonstrations, video, and radio would be used for training on Triple S. Messages translated into local languages would be tailored to sensitize and train next users such as researchers, agricultural training institutions, extension, policymakers, community-based development partners, and farmers as end users of Triple S. A cascade training strategy would result in the improved technical capacity of extensionists and Triple S champion households to be the main source of information and to support community-level uptake. Considering differences in literacy rates between men and women, an audio and visual approach would mean that information would be better understood by women and would ensure wider exposure to the Triple S method with spillover through farmer-to-farmer sharing.

If farmers appreciated the benefits of the Triple S method, extensionists would include it in their activities, and agricultural training institutions would add it to curricula, which would contribute to longer term institutional capacity for the uptake of Triple S. Greater access to clean seed in time for early planting, when the soil is moister, would enable better crop growth and higher yields. Improving production and productivity would allow the sweetpotato to contribute more to household food security, nutrition, and incomes.

2.3 Developing Gender-Responsive Communication Materials

The communication tools included: visual training materials using cartoons with few words in large format, on A1 size flipcharts and farmer leaflets (Ethiopia only), demonstrations, and video-based extension and radio programs (Fig. 12.3). Content for the different communication tools was developed through a collaboration between research and extension agents, with feedback from farmers. Videos were developed using the zooming in-zooming out (ZIZO) method, a participatory approach combining a script that describes the innovation with farmers who show how they use the new idea, and explain why they use it (Van Mele 2006). Videos were produced in English, after which scripts were translated into local languages using a voice-over. In Ghana, four short videos were produced that described all the steps of Triple S, except the complementary component of GAPs. In Ethiopia, one video was produced that described the whole Triple S cycle, including GAPs. The video screenings were facilitated by extension staff who were trained in video-based extension, e.g., allowing time and encouraging questions and providing repeat sessions. The radio programs were developed by local and regional FM stations based on key messages in the video scripts. The programs were broadcast in local languages at key points in the Triple S seasonal cycle. Farmers could call in to these talk shows and ask questions of invited agricultural specialists.

Fig. 12.3
figure 3

Multimedia communication (clockwise from upper left): screening videos, filming videos, and flipcharts and other written material for farmers

2.4 Partnering for a Gender-Responsive Approach

The partnering approach to scaling Triple S was three-pronged (Tables 12.4 and 12.5). First, the project collaborated with large, nutrition-sensitive agricultural development projects and programs to achieve short-term but large-scale exposure of target populations to the Triple S PLUS innovation package. These projects and programs were implemented by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government extensionFootnote 3 staff working at different administrative levels. Second, sustainability was built into the activities by partnering with agricultural colleges, government extension authorities, and the ministries of agriculture to encourage integration of the Triple S PLUS package into national and local work plans and training curricula. Third, partners identified and trained local Triple S champion households, i.e., both spouses (and decentralized vine multipliers and seed companies in Ghana) in the Triple S package to increase the long-term uptake of the package at the community level. Involving the NARIs as partners allowed for future research and the use of Triple S roots as part of the variety maintenance, multiplication, and dissemination strategy to introduce new sweetpotato varieties.

Table 12.4 Partners and their roles in the Triple S scaling initiative in Ghana
Table 12.5 Partners and their roles in the Triple S scaling initiative in Ethiopia

2.5 Implementation Modalities

Implementation started with a regional inception workshop for lead teams including researchers and selected partners from Ethiopia and Ghana (Wigboldus 2018). This workshop provided practical training on the scaling readiness approach to develop a first draft of the theory of change and the proposed scaling approach (Sartas et al. 2020a, b). This was followed by in-country start-up workshops led by the CIP scaling champions in Ghana and Ethiopia to adapt the theory of change and scaling approach to the country contexts (Cherinet and Asfaw 2018; van Mourik and Wigboldus 2018). The participants were project partners and relevant stakeholders, including NGOs managing nutrition-sensitive agricultural development programs, Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), community-based organizations (CBOs), national agricultural research institutes (NARIs), and pre-service and in-service agricultural training institutes and universities.

The main outputs from the country start-up workshops were the vision of success as a visual representation of the theory of change, including the core and complementary innovations, the partners, and the expected outcomes of the scaling process (Wigboldus et al. 2016) (Fig. 12.4a, b). This oriented the work plan with the roles and responsibilities of each of the partners, with a shortlist of low-hanging fruits and immediate actions. Noting that women in the intervention areas may have lower literacy levels, which might limit participation in training events, a deliberate strategy to target women through partners’ programs was incorporated to enhance exposure to and potential uptake of the technology. We recognized that both the processes of technical change and partnering would be dynamic, so we built in regular reflection steps (S. Wigboldus, personal communication), and “learning journeys” (www.africa.procasur.org) in the annual project cycle.

Fig. 12.4
figure 4

(a) Developing a vision to unlock the potential of OFSP using Triple S in Ghana. This key stage encourages partners to add their input and to commit to a common vision and strategy for scaling. (b) Synthesis of the vision for impact, which combines elements of the core and complementary innovations, the theory of change and the approach to scaling, including the partners

In Ghana, the cascade training worked at two levels, the CIP scaling champion implemented training of trainers (ToT) with three groups (two with NGO partners’ field agents and one with MoFA extension agents), who then trained farmer groups and their leaders at community level (Fig. 12.5). In Ethiopia, the government extension structure required that staff should be trained at regional, through zonal to district and village levels. The CIP scaling champion trained BoANRD experts, research, and NGO partners (People in Need) at regional, zonal, and district level. Then zonal and district partners trained village development agents (DA). DAs trained champion households and village officials. At the community level, village officials and Triple S champion households shared the responsibility to train farmers.

Fig. 12.5
figure 5

Cascade training on Triple S PLUS innovation package in Ghana and Ethiopia

The trainings covered the core and complementary practices (Tables 12.2 and 12.3) of Triple S. In Ghana, the two NGO partners with large agricultural development projects initially focused their agricultural training programs on women’s Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) groups. However, to increase participation by men, the scaling project encouraged husbands to also join the trainings. In Ethiopia, the NGO partner, People in Need (PIN), disseminated Triple S as part of Healthy Living Club (HLC) initiatives that targeted caregivers of young children, who were mostly women. Local FM radio stations were selected based on the language used and coverage in the target areas. The broadcasts were accessible to those in households which owned a radio or to people who could listen in with neighbors and friends.

3 Methods for Assessment of Gender-Responsive Multimedia Communication Tools and Channels

We wanted to pilot and evaluate the effectiveness of the different types of communication tools in changing knowledge, attitudes, and practices on GAPs and Triple S in Ghana and Ethiopia. We also wanted to assess how the different communication channels were gender-responsive and their ability to encourage women to participate and use the innovation. We used a quasi-experimental design. Three levels of promotion intensity were tested in each country. “Core” farmers in communities in Ghana were exposed to the three communication channels, i.e., face-to-face training, video, and radio; in Ethiopia they were exposed to face-to-face training using flipcharts, farmer leaflets, and radio. “Spillover” farmers were exposed to video and radio, and “informed” farmers were exposed to radio only. The radio programs were broadcast in all intervention areas, so in theory farmers who were in either of the first two treatment categories could also hear about Triple S on the radio.

Quantitative surveys in both countries assessed how these different levels of promotion intensity (communication channels) influenced gender-differentiated changes in awareness, knowledge, and early uptake (i.e., use of Triple S in the previous 12 months). Data were also collected to assess any association between technology use and selected sweetpotato output variables (e.g., production or sales of roots). Both spouses were interviewed together for general household information and implementation of GAPs, and then they were interviewed separately on specific Triple S knowledge, attitudes, and practices. The survey also assessed household decision-making about planting, eating, and selling sweetpotatoes and using proceeds from the sale. In Ghana, the sample size was 294 households from 24 communities in eight districts across the two regions (Upper West and Northern). In Ethiopia, 745 households in three districts (Hawassa Zuria, Misrak Badewacho, and Mirab Abaya) participated.

Qualitative insights were gained through separate focus group discussions for men and women to gain a deeper understanding of gendered perceptions of the communication tools. Study communities were selected according to the communication channels they had been exposed to. In Ethiopia, 124 respondents (64 men, 60 women) and in Ghana, 235 respondents (110 men, 125 women) participated in the study. An index was developed to compare women and men’s perception of the efficacy of different communication channels. We defined “efficacy” as the perceived level of ability of the channel to deliver the Triple S information to the project beneficiaries for their eventual use. The index was based on five indicators, i.e., (1) ease of access to the channel; (2) ease of understanding the information; (3) suitability of the time of day, and suitability of the season of the year when the information was relayed; (4) ease of sharing; and (5) ease of applying the information obtained. Respondents used a five-point Likert scale (5 = very easy or suitable; 1 = very difficult or unsuitable) to score each indicator. Each indicator was accorded a weight of 0.2 and the maximum score being 1.00.

In Ghana, during data analysis, it became apparent that the quasi experimental setup had not maintained discrete treatments for the core, spillover, and informed communities. Many farmers in communities that were not supposed to have been exposed to training and demonstration (spillover and informed) did attend a training and demonstration. Conversely, many farmers who were supposed to have received training or watched videos, in fact, had not. It was difficult to keep the treatments separate, in part because the communities were near each other, so curious farmers could visit other villages and attend their communication events as well. So, we analyzed our data by communication channels that farmers reported to have been exposed to, rather than the ones that the project had intended. This resulted in the following five categories: “not exposed” (i.e., not exposed to information on Triple S PLUS through radio, video, or demonstration), “radio” (i.e., exposed to the information through a neighbor, radio, or a neighbor and radio), “demonstration” (i.e., exposed to demonstration, radio and demonstration, a neighbor and demonstration, or a neighbor and demonstration and radio), “video” (i.e., exposed to video, radio and video, neighbor and video or neighbor, video and radio), and “video with demonstration” (i.e., exposed to demonstration, video, and any combination of the other channels), discussed in Sect. 12.5. In Ethiopia, farmers were classified in four categories: (1) face-to-face training using flipcharts, farmer leaflets, demonstrations, and radio, (2) video and radio, (3) radio only, and (4) no exposure.

In both countries the percentage of male and female farmers using individual GAPs and Triple S practices was analyzed. Two indices were constructed: the first for household level “use of GAPs” and the second for individual, sex-disaggregated “use of Triple S.” We classified the use of at least three out of the four recommended practices (1) crop rotation, (2) timely weeding, (3) uplifting, and (4) remaking ridges as “use of GAPs.” For Triple S, the index was based on the use of at least three of four practices: (1) identify and tag healthy plants, (2) sort roots before storage, (3) store in a container or structure with sand, and (4) check the roots in storage. While planting out sprouted roots in seed beds is also part of the technology, the timing of the survey in both countries did not allow us to assess the use of this practice.

4 Findings on Gender-Responsive Communication Channels and Early Uptake of Triple S

4.1 Participation in Trainings and Events

In Ghana, 148 trainers (26% women) from partners were initially trained in Triple S and GAPs and later cascaded the training to women and men farmers. Trainers reached 36,866 participants (60% women) through 2041 training and demonstration events. The video screenings reached 42,799 persons (65% women) through 846 video screening events. While it was impossible to measure the number of farmers who listened to the different radio programs, the stations reported much feedback from listeners, with 2544 documented calls into the programs (17% from women callers). Though distribution and sale of vines was not an initial goal of the project, early communication activities unleashed a large, unexpected demand for OFSP planting material, and through a coordinated effort with vine multipliers and a private seed company, over 20,000 farmers (~80% women) were able to buy vines.

In Ethiopia, 487 (32% female) BoANRD, NGO staff, and Triple S champion households participated in the cascade training at regional, district, and village levels. Each champion household was then responsible for training 50 households, reaching 13,693 farmers (39% female). An additional 18 BoANRD staff (all male) were trained in video-based extension, which was extended to 2463 farmers (10% female).

4.2 Early Uptake of Triple S and GAPs

Table 12.6 summarizes reported use of Triple S (three out of four practices) in the previous 12 months.

Table 12.6 Summary data from Ghana and Ethiopia end-line surveys showing sex-disaggregated use of Triple Sa and household use of GAPsb by treatment or no treatment

In Ghana, by the end of the 2-year intervention, 48% of the men and 35% of the women who had been exposed to any of the communication channels reported that they had used Triple S. These figures were much higher than for people who had not been exposed to any of the information (7% of the men and 5% of the women). Sixty-two percent of households which had been exposed to any communication channel reported using GAPs, compared to just 33% of those which had not been exposed to any information reported using GAPs. In other words, in Ghana use of the practices was fairly high among people who had received the information through any channel.

In Ethiopia , 24% of males (n = 327) and 7% of females (n = 319) had started using Triple S at the time of the survey. Three percent of both men and women who were in one of the treatment groups reported that they had used three out of four Triple S practices, compared to none of those who had not received information. 84% of households which had been exposed to any communication channel reported using GAPs, while 76% of households which had not been exposed were using GAPs.

In both countries, those who received no information had the lowest rates of uptake of both Triple S and of GAPs. In Ethiopia the uptake of GAPs was much higher (76% to 94%) than the use of Triple S (0% to 7%). However, it is likely that GAPs were already widely used before the project intervention. The very low uptake of Triple S leaves little room for any difference between men and women. In Ghana, the uptake of GAPs was higher (33% to 62%) than that of Triple S (5% to 48%). Men had higher uptake than women (48% for men versus 35% for women) who were exposed to any communication channel.

We then compared uptake of Triple S by communication channel.

In Ghana , we grouped farmers into five categories of exposure to information: (1) not exposed, (2) radio only, (3) demonstration, (4) video, and (5) video and demonstration. More men used Triple S (at least three out of four practices) than women (Figs. 12.6 and 12.7). For instance, 63% of men exposed to both video and demonstration used Triple S, compared to 45% of the women. Use of Triple S was somewhat higher for men than for women, across the communication channels.

Fig. 12.6
figure 6

Ghana: percentage of male farmers applying Triple S practices disaggregated by communication channel. (Source: Etwire et al. 2020)

Fig. 12.7
figure 7

Ghana: percentage of female farmers applying Triple S practices disaggregated by communication channel. (Source: Etwire et al. 2020)

Treatments 4 (video) and 5 (video plus demo) were more effective at encouraging farmers to adopt Triple S practices, with one exception. For storage in sand, demonstration was especially important, suggesting that some practices that involve a lot of manipulation of different materials (getting the sand, putting it in the container, burying the roots) may be most effectively taught with a demonstration. For most other practices, the videos were as effective or a demonstration or more so. The most intensive treatment (5), combining demonstration and video, is particularly efficient in encouraging both male and female farmers to apply Triple S, although it is also the most expensive.

In Ethiopia , uptake of Triple S was assessed across three communication channels, i.e., (1) radio with face-to-face training (using flip charts, handouts, and demonstrations), (2) video and radio, and (3) radio only, and a fourth group of those who had not been exposed to information on Triple S. The end-line survey showed that a higher proportion of respondents reported that they been trained in Triple S through the videos (87% of men and 36% women) than by face-to-face training (57% men, 20% women) or radio (22% men, 6% women). In the nontreatment group, few (1% men, 1% women) reported that they had been trained in Triple S.

Spouses were interviewed separately for Triple S specific practices. Use of clean planting material scored highest both by men (93%) and women (91%) reached through video.

For Ethiopia, while the number of farmers that reported that they had started using Triple S was low (121 men and 32 women), Figs. 12.8 and 12.9 show that men applied Triple S practices more than women. For instance, 26% of men exposed to face-to-face training used Triple S (i.e., at least three out of four practices) compared to 11% of the women. Moreover, no women exposed to the other communication channels reported using Triple S. Men may use Triple S after watching videos, but for women, face-to-face training is still critical for uptake.

Fig. 12.8
figure 8

Ethiopia: percentage of male farmers who started using Triple S (n = 131) by communication channel. (Source: Asfaw et al. 2020)

Fig. 12.9
figure 9

Ethiopia: percentage of female farmers who started using Triple S (n = 31) by communication channel. (Source: Asfaw et al. 2020)

4.3 Changes in Food Security

The end-line surveys made a preliminary assessment of any association between technology use and selected variables such as sweetpotato production and sale. In Ghana, 67% of households surveyed in the intervention area reported an increase in area under sweetpotato cultivation. 81% of households reported an increase from the sales of roots and vines. The average household reported income over the preceding rainy season of GHC 70 (about USD 15) and GHC 180 (USD 34) from sales of sweetpotato vines and roots, respectively (Table 12.7). Farmers who applied GAPs tended to earn more from roots and vines. Nonusers of either Triple S or GAPs sold more roots but earned the lowest income from sweetpotato, while farmers who applied both GAPs and Triple S earned the highest income, perhaps because they were able to harvest earlier and capture higher prices. As a result of increased sales and conservation of roots, these farmers may also consume less roots (Table 12.7) (Etwire et al. 2020).

Table 12.7 Use of GAPs and Triple S vs sweetpotato production and use in Ghana

The end-line survey found no significant relationship between sweetpotato output (root production) and the use of GAPs and Triple S. This could be due to the general constraints that farmers faced in accessing planting materials irrespective of whether they were exposed to different communication channels and irrespective of whether they applied GAPs and Triple S or not. In addition, data was collected immediately after the end of project activities and therefore did not allow for complete manifestation of the effects of technology use in future cropping seasons (Etwire et al. 2020).

In Ethiopia , there was insufficient time since the Triple S training cycle had been completed to assess an increase in root production. Therefore, farmers were asked about trends in area under sweetpotato over the previous 12 months; 61% of farmers receiving face-to-face training reported an increment. This is statistically significant when compared with farmers receiving video-based training (33%). Few households in any group reported that their area under cultivation had gone down (Asfaw et al. 2020, data not shown). Table 12.8 presents the percentage of households selling vines and roots in the previous 12 months. The percentage selling vines is lower than those selling roots. About 61% of households exposed to face-to-face training reported root sales. For both vines and root sales, households reported that sales had gone up in the recall period. Average income from sweetpotato sales (vine and root) was the following: face-to-face training, USD 105; video training, USD 76; radio training, USD 105; and nontreatment, USD 63. The result is similar for both treatment and nontreatment groups, possibly because there was continuous rainfall in both short and long rainy seasons in all project districts.

Table 12.8 Households (HH) reporting vine and root sales in previous 12 months by different communication channels in selected villages, SNNPR, Ethiopia

4.4 Gender-Based Perspectives on Different Communication Tools and Channels

In Ethiopia women identified four communication channels through which they obtained information (face-to-face, video, radio, and HLCs), with men adding meetings and the farming radio program “8208.” In Ghana, men and women identified face-to-face, video, radio, and personal communication (from friends, neighbors) channels and in Upper West Region “talking books” which were the extension method used by the NGO implementing partner. We used the 5-point index described in Sect. 12.4 (ease of access, ease of understanding, etc.) to compare women’s and men’s perception of the efficacy of different communication channels (Figs. 12.10, 12.11, and 12.12. Weighted scores of 0.80 and above rated as adequate for each indicator (Mayanja et al. 2020).

Fig. 12.10
figure 10

Assessment of efficacy of communication channels by women and men in Upper West Region, Ghana. (Source: Mayanja et al. 2020)

Fig. 12.11
figure 11

Assessment of efficacy of communication channels by women and men in Northern Region, Ghana. (Source: Mayanja et al. 2020)

Fig. 12.12
figure 12

Assessment of efficacy of communication channels by women and men in Ethiopia. (Source: Mayanja et al. 2020)

Ease of access: Respondents in both countries perceived face-to-face channels such as demonstrations to be the most accessible. Women in both countries and men in Ghana, Upper West Region, perceived radio and video as difficult channels to access due to the lack of radio sets, batteries, and power outages, and they were dependent on the extension officer to repeat the video events (Fig. 12.10). On the other hand, men in Ghana, Northern Region (Fig. 12.11), and Ethiopia (Fig. 12.12) reported full access to radio (twice as much as women) and slightly higher access to video as compared to women.

Ease in understanding information: Information relayed via face-to-face channels was scored as adequately understood by both men and women in both countries. In Ghana, personal communication from friends and neighbors was rated to be very adequate for men in both regions and only for women in the Upper West Region. In Ghana, ease of understanding information through video was rated as slightly below adequate for men in both regions, inadequate by women in Upper West Region (Fig. 12.10), but adequate for women in the Northern Region. In Ethiopia, both men and women reported that information from videos was not easy to understand. Surprisingly, men in Ghana, Northern Region, rated information transmitted via radio as much harder to understand than women did – with women scoring adequate (Fig. 12.11).

Timing (appropriate time of the day and suitable time of year): In Ethiopia, men gave a score of adequate for the timing of face-to-face, video, and meetings (Fig. 12.12). Women in Ethiopia and men from the Ghana, Upper West Region (Fig. 12.10), gave a score of inadequate for the timing of all information channels. Men from the Northern Region, Ghana, also perceived timing for all the information channels inadequate except for radio and personal communication (Fig. 12.11). In Ghana, Northern Region, women perceived face-to-face and radio channels to have relayed information at a suitable time, while men scored radio and personal communication as adequate.

Ease of sharing: Information received through face-to-face channels was perceived to be easy to share by women and nearly made the mark for men from the Upper West Region, Ghana (Fig. 12.10). This was similar for women from Northern Region, Ghana, who also perceived information from radio as easy to share. Men from the same region also selected radio and personal communication as adequate. Women from Ethiopia did not find information through any channel as easy to share (Fig. 12.12), while men identified face-to-face, video, HLC, and meetings as channels that delivered information which was easy to share.

Ease of application: In Ethiopia, information obtained face-to-face was perceived to be easy to apply by both men and women (Fig. 12.12). Men also scored information from HLC, meetings, and farmer radio as easy to apply. In Ghana there were similar ratings for face-to-face channels for both men and women. Women in Upper West Region scored personal communication adequate as did men in Northern Region. Information from video was perceived to be easy to apply by both men and women from the Northern Region (Fig. 12.12).

Mayanja et al. (2020) report on focus group discussions which provided additional insights for the different channels for this project. Radio was a popular communication channel in both countries. One advantage mentioned by men and women was that agricultural information can be transmitted quickly through radio and can be accessed by many households at the same time, wherever people happened to be. They also said that the information was likely to be up-to-date information and that issues could be clarified by calling in to the station. Women noted that radio motivates them because they can learn a lot from other farmers while also obtaining information on sweetpotato in general, Triple S, and prevention of pests. They appreciated information from other towns and countries related to different planting methods and use of improved seed. Women mentioned that they could use their phones to listen to radio, especially if the broadcast was in the local language and at a suitable time. This made radio versatile since it could be used anywhere at any time. Women also noted that people found it easier to share information from the radio which could then benefit women without radios. The disadvantages mentioned related to limited access to a radio set, power outages, and battery costs. At times, Triple S information via radio was not clear, and farmers found it hard to put such information into practice. This was compared to face-to-face training where they could ask questions when they were not clear. This challenge was noted in both countries.

Video was appreciated as a new and alternate means of relaying agricultural information. Men in Ghana likened video to being in a classroom where all the steps of the Triple S were clearly explained. This highlighted the power of video to relay practical information on Triple S. In Ethiopia, men noted that information from video was easy to share with others; while women in Northern Ghana appreciated the information obtained because they found it easy to apply. Indeed, for women and men in Suke Lambussie and women in Chogsia West, video was voted the most preferred communication channel. Respondents from these areas noted that messages communicated via video were easy to understand and inspirational, given that they saw what other farmers had experienced with the technology and everything screened could not be easily forgotten. Women in Ethiopia mentioned disadvantages, including difficulties in accessing the video shows as well as timing, which could conflict with household chores. Women from the Upper West Region, Ghana, noted that sometimes the information in the videos was not clear, which made it difficult for them to absorb the information, especially if there was no question and answer session. Another disadvantage noted by most women in both countries was the program was short and the shows were not available as and when they were needed. Nonetheless, the innovative nature of the channel was highly appreciated.

Face-to-face was the most highly rated channel in both countries, mainly because it enabled farmers to merge both practical and theoretical aspects of the technology, making it easier to understand and apply. Women appreciated this channel because information was relayed in the local language, and they could ask questions on the spot. Another advantage was that one could ask the same question repeatedly (unlike with other channels) to obtain a clear understanding on difficult technical issues. Face-to-face was also appreciated because it synched with the cropping calendar. Disadvantages included the tendency to lean towards theoretical aspects during trainings. Women in Ethiopia noted that this made it harder to implement the technology as sometimes they left the training with insufficient knowledge to apply Triple S on their own.

5 Drawing Lessons on Gender-Responsive Communication Channels

The multimedia communication approach and our partnering strategy contributed to reducing the gender gap (especially in Ghana) in knowledge transfer with a higher proportion of women farmers reached (60% for demonstrations and 65% for video screenings) than the 5% cited for conventional extension initiatives (UNDP 2012). This is also higher than the 30% participation rate of women reported for the demand-led extension approach of CABI’s Plantwise program in Ghana (Williams and Taron 2020).

In Ethiopia, the World Bank (2010) reports that women’s participation in extension is on average about 20% but with high regional variations ranging from 2% in Afar to 54% in Tigray. While recognizing that the use of a technology often requires a joint decision by husband and wife, there are signs of early uptake of Triple S. In both countries there is higher uptake in the group reached through video (in combination with demonstration in Ghana). Men often favor the novel video-based extension approach, but women prefer face-to-face interactions which allow more opportunities to ask questions and for practical demonstrations. This is reflected in the lower uptake rates of women compared to men exposed to video-based extension. However, as women’s uptake of GAPs and Triple S practices are lower than for men in general, other constraints are also at play.

5.1 Country Context and Early Uptake of GAPs and Triple S

The total number of farmers exposed to Triple S through the different treatments was 16,156 farmers in Ethiopia compared to 79,655 in Ghana. Moreover, a higher proportion of male and female farmers reported that they had used Triple S (three out of four practices) in Ghana compared to Ethiopia. This reflects differences in context, climate, and partnering strategies between the two countries. For example, in Ethiopia, the agricultural season of 2018–2019 was unusually wet in some of the intervention areas, so farmers did not see the urgent need to start practicing Triple S. Moreover, in Ethiopia, the extension agents in the government system were responsible for multiple crops, whereas in Ghana the NGO staff in nutrition-sensitive agriculture programs were focused on fewer crops.

In both countries, the 2-year intervention period was short, especially for a technology with an annual cycle. In the first year, planting material was in short supply, so few roots were available to store in sand. We overestimated the readiness of this component and should have treated it as a core rather than complementary component (Table 12.2) to ensure stronger engagement with the NARIs in each country to guarantee sufficient production of early generation seed. In the second year in Ethiopia, roots were harvested and selected for Triple S in October–November 2019, and the survey was conducted the following month (December 2019 to January 2020), too soon to learn if farmers were using the final Triple S step of planting out the sprouted roots in seed beds.

In Ghana, video-based trainings and demonstrations (either separately or in combination) had positive effects on the use of GAPs and Triple S. Males living in wealthier regions with larger farms were more likely to use the technology. In Ethiopia, more male and female farmers turned up for the video screenings than was planned and higher than the face-to-face training. It is possible that the selected farmers listed as beneficiaries (and sampled for the end-line survey) were not actually invited to the face-to-face training. It is also possible that the face-to-face trainings were poorly attended or that many farmers who were not on the beneficiary list went to watch the videos. The novelty of the videos attracted a larger audience, especially because they were screened in the village (rather than at the Farmer Training Center). Fewer participants (only 25 farmers) were intended to watch videos, while 50 were assigned to each face-to-face training, and those events may have been under-attended. Abate et al. (2019) showed that video-based extension method was more effective than the traditional method of extension when disseminating teff, wheat, and maize technologies in Ethiopia.

Literacy levels and access to radio influenced the effectiveness of flipchart-mediated and radio-based communication. In Ethiopia, literacy rates were 72% for men and 53% for women reached by face-to-face training with flipcharts and printed materials. Farmers with access to radio sets were more likely to have been exposed to Triple S through radio programs (64%) and the least likely to have attended face-to-face training (22% of men and 6% of women).

A good proportion of male and female farmers who were exposed to Triple S and GAPs did not take up either of the technology packages. More time is needed, as individuals usually go through five stages prior to adopting a technology, i.e., awareness, gaining adequate knowledge, making a decision to adopt, trying the technology, and then deciding to continue using it or not (Rogers 1995). Technology adoption is complex, and individuals form perceptions of a technology which influence their decisions to adopt (Straub 2009). The attributes of a technology, how long it has been around, the communication channels used to share it, and the social system of adopters all influence adoption (Straub 2009; Hermans et al. 2021). Risk considerations and associated constraints can also limit widespread adoption of technologies (Mukasa 2018). For knowledge-intensive technologies such as tissue culture for banana, successful adoption required major changes in farming practices and a good understanding of the technology (Kabunga et al. 2012). So, adoption is not just about getting the technology right but about making it fit with social and institutional components and the perceptions of different types of farmers (Glover et al. 2019), which in the case of Triple S was through the multimedia communication strategy.

5.2 Gender-Based Perspectives on Communication Tools and Channels

We have gained insights on gender-based perceptions about the different communication channels used and how they influence the type and number of participants reached and the quality of knowledge transfer. While we show that using the different communication channels reduced the gender gap for sharing information on Triple S, women’s access to information was still lower than men’s in Ghana and lower still in Ethiopia. Women were more disadvantaged than men when we used communication channels that required reading or access to radio sets. Despite the novelty of video-based extension, most women and men in both countries preferred face-to-face communication and rated the efficacy of this channel as adequate. Women found face-to-face training easier to understand, and it was easier to ask questions and to learn by seeing or doing. Demystifying a technology from the theory into practice may still need face-to-face sessions for women (Mudege et al. 2017), with two-way communication between knowledge receivers and senders. Women appreciated the demonstrations not just for the technical information but also because they could catch up on the news and community issues at these social networking events. Such gatherings are safe places where women share, mentor, and encourage one another to address challenges related to farming and personal well-being (Jones et al. 2017). Given the lower literacy levels for women, such channels will still be preferred and relevant for them.

Men appreciated video and radio as alternate channels of information. In Ghana, they likened video to being in class, showing how authoritative this channel can be in relaying information on the technology. Witnessing the powerful testimonies of other farmers using the technology was valuable, especially for men who anticipate cash benefits. This further confirms the importance of digital platforms to strengthen delivery and uptake of technology (Aker 2011). Videos could help reduce the high costs associated with face-to-face communication. However, this benefit will depend on how the challenges associated with video can be addressed. There is a digital gender divide, as women have less access to ICTs, as evidenced in Ethiopia (see also Ogato 2013). In Ethiopia, women perceived the efficacy of radio and video as below adequate, while men ranked them much higher. Women in both countries noted lack of ownership of radio sets as a limiting factor to tuning in. Kyazze et al. (2012) also noted that lack of money to buy radios and batteries limited women’s access to weather information. Societal gender norms affect women’s ability to access agricultural services (McCormack 2018). It is important to understand household dynamics that influence access to radio sets before designing radio information packages. Strategies such as community radios or talking books could be explored as an add-on to household radio sets.

Besides access to radio sets and video screenings, respondents in both countries explained that the timing of the programs conflicted with domestic chores. This restricted their ability to understand Triple S since they only heard part of the program. This has also been noted in Tanzania, where women had to limit their time for listening to educational programs to attend to household work and childcare (Poulsen et al. 2015). Repeated broadcasts of radio shows and videos could help to alleviate this challenge. Extension programs should also schedule these programs at times that are the most convenient for women. For example, women may have more time to listen to radio early in the morning, and video screenings may be easier to attend in the early evening, but this should be determined with the women in each community.

In some communities, men and women did not access the same communication channels. For example, in Ethiopia, women did not mention meetings as a source of information. Also, in communities where the farming radio program “8208” was mentioned (and rated as a highly effective communications channel), only men listened to it. It is usually more difficult for women to attend meetings especially those held outside the community. Cultural norms can restrict women’s access to events where information is relayed, but it is easier for women to access information services in the village, where their childcare and household responsibilities are (Gumucio et al. 2020). The scaling readiness of the video and radio components may have been higher for an audience of male farmers, but we needed more research on existing social norms to understand how to design communication channels for women.

6 Way Forward: Implications for Continued Scaling of Triple S PLUS

6.1 Embedding Triple S in Sweetpotato Vine Distribution Programs

Various training and dissemination activities have continued and will go on well after the Triple S PLUS project. Communication and training tools such as radio programs and videos (including video projector kits) are available and continue to be used. For example, the training videos from Ghana have been disseminated via USB sticks, are still available online on the AgTube (now EcoAgtube) channel, and have been viewed over 35,600 times in 2 years (e.g., van Mourik 2018). In both Ethiopia and Ghana, NGOs that promote OFSP as part of a nutrition-sensitive intervention have come to consider the Triple S PLUS innovation package, in combination with processing and value chain activities, as an option to increase the sustainability of their intervention and catalyze lasting change. In Ghana, several district assemblies have adopted OFSP and the Triple S package as a priority and budgeted for the activity in their annual agricultural development plans. At the national level, subsidized sales of quality OFSP planting material are part of the presidential Planting for Food and Jobs agricultural development program; although the Triple S innovation package is not specifically mentioned here, quality planting material is a prerequisite for successfully applying. Modules for training on OFSP, production, processing, storage, and Triple S PLUS have also been incorporated into the curricula of agricultural colleges in Ethiopia and Ghana, which will teach it to the extension agents and field technicians of tomorrow.

6.2 Partnering Capacities and Capabilities

Partners have different capacities to contribute to scaling. For instance, NGOs with large, well-funded but time-limited projects can expose more farmers to the innovations and permit for measurable early uptake at scale. However, other types of partners are needed to bring about more long-term and systemic changes, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and agricultural colleges. The short-term impact achieved by NGOs and community interventions, if well documented and communicated, can convince government actors to adopt appropriate policies and training. Some elements of the scaling strategy implemented by the scaling champions that contributed to this were (1) quarterly scaling reflection and planning meetings in-country; (2) cascade training of field and extension agents, sequenced to the Triple S yearly cycle; (3) yearly regional exchange visits with partners from Ethiopia, Ghana, and a regional team; (4) learning journeys to project activities, with clear learning objectives, information gathering, and presentation of conclusions and action points; (5) assessing perceptions and early uptake of Triple S with men and women farmers and communities; and (6) communicating findings to key actors, using briefs, blogs, and articles (International Potato Center 2019). Partners also have different capacities for training and disseminating innovations, monitoring, and evaluation and quality control of interventions. The scaling champions were able to provide continuous training and technical support which were essential to make sure that a many farmers were reached but also to make sure that the information provided was of good technical quality, understandable, and followed up with support where needed.

6.3 Reflecting on Enabling Factors for Scaling Triple S

We started this chapter recognizing that several enabling factors related to infrastructure, attitude and behavior change, marketing and value chains, and policy are critical for scaling innovation packages. As we look to the future, several changes may be needed to enhance the Triple S scaling process.

The communication strategies stimulated so much interest in sweetpotato in Ghana that 20,000 people bought vines. We used multimedia communication channels as part of the scaling strategy because demonstrations and face-to-face extension are expensive. Farmers like face-to-face communication, but the results also show that multimedia can reach more people, e.g., in Ghana 36,866 people were reached through 2041 training events, but videos reached slightly more, 42,799 at just 846 screenings. Videos can reach a lot more people, about three times as many per session, yet the early uptake rates are comparable. Future research should undertake detailed analysis of the cost effectiveness of the different channels.

Continued work on understanding gender-responsive communication channels in different sociocultural contexts is also required. Research on local social norms can inform the design and implementation of gender-responsive communication tools. Separate channels may be appropriate, or it may be necessary to ensure equitable opportunities to access the same channels. Face-to-face training allows women to participate in talks and in practical demonstrations while using social networks to enhance information sharing. Men are drawn to video-based extension, which is increasingly relevant as digital platforms become a new norm. But the events need electricity, devices to show videos, and sensitivity to the right time and place to screen videos so that women can attend.

There are several technical adaptations in progress. Sweetpotato breeders have started to include “sproutability” as a key trait in their breeding programs and to consider the use of sprouted roots for disseminating new varieties. As climate becomes increasingly unpredictable, there is greater interest in using root-based seed interventions. As farmers have started to shift their attitudes and behavior, commercial seed producers need to test the technical and economic feasibility of Triple S technology using larger quantities of stored roots.

As we worked with partners, we realized that truly achieving impact and scale would require more interventions than the Triple S technology. For instance, in our vision of impact, partners made it clear that awareness raising of the nutritional advantages of OFSP and supporting innovation in processing and marketing of OFSP products were essential to increase demand for the roots, continued interest in increasing OFSP production, and the relevance of Triple S. This highlights the importance of the policy context which enables growth in the sweetpotato sub-sector and will continue to be an enabling factor and driver for the need for and uptake of innovative seed technologies.