Traditionally our work has looked at empowering farmers to be leaders in delivering services to fellow farmers in-person. However, we are also witnessing that although there is a glut of ‘Ag-Tech’ and other digital tools being targeted at smallholders, there is limited uptake in these tools by farmers.
Therefore, we have been exploring how our unique farmer-led approach can we help create digital tools together with farmers that they will actually value and use. Our past success with this, in the form of WeFarm, has helped us developed a pioneering set of techniques that can create digital technology by farmers, for farmers.
Below we have outlined some of the main digital work that we have been involved in.
Data is an increasingly important commodity. Even on a small-scale we have needed to complete a number of data collection exercises across our network to analyse and evaluate the impact of our work. This is really important to ensure that the work we’re doing is working, however, rarely have we been able to get this information back to farmers in ways that can help them to improve their on-farm decision making.
Therefore, with the support of the Global Resilience Challenge we have been concentrating on developing a farmer-led data collection system that gathers and analyses on-farm records to help farmers improve decision making. This system is centered around record keeping, By developing a simplified log-book paper-based collection tool for farmers to capture their day-to-day we have enabled farmers to track their on-farm activities. By then collecting this information on a purpose built app, administered by youth groups at the Centres of Excellence, farmers can see simple, easy to read charts that allow them to: track their individual enterprises; manage their cash flow; and analyse their overall farm performance.
In 2016 we teamed up with Mastercard to create 2KUZE, a mobile marketplace for produce designed to help East African smallholders sell and receive payments for goods. By advertising their goods on the platform, farmers can sell direct to customers, reducing their risks and the need to walk for hours to physical markets.
2Kuze also has the added advantage of providing transparency of payments made and a way to verify income if smallholders want access to other financial services. Additionally, by working with youth groups at the Centres of Excellence to provide logistical support, Producers Direct are creating job opportunities and incentives for young people to stay in rural communities, rather than emigrate to the city.
2KUZE has been developed at the Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion and after being launched at Sireet OEP, our Centre of Excellence in Kenya, it is now being scaled out across out other Centres.
Climate Edge are a UK-based start-up that are making agricultural research accessible to the global arable network. By utilising on-farm climatic data, they offer bespoke farm management insights to increase productivity and sustainability. Their on-farm weather centres (Nexo), track: Rainfall; Soil Moisture; Leaf Wetness; Photosynthetically Active Radiation; Soil Temperature; And more…! It is then relayed via 2g networks to dashboards that generate weather warnings, and can be shown to farmers on tablets.
Our work with them has just begun, but aims to explore how data from on-farm weather stations can be combined with record keeping information in way that will allow farmers to make increasingly complex and vital decisions. This data will also then be combined with big data to increase high level insights.
Internet of Things
Just like our work on record keeping, our Internet of Things technology was brought about from seeing how powerful information canbe for smallholder farmers. Looking around our network we saw how although data was being generated across the supply chain, smallholder farmers don’t have access to any of it; even down to the size of their harvest, or price of produce. This can lead to inefficiencies and food loss across the supply chain, with farmers unable to adequately respond to changing climates, price volatility and market fluctuations.
With support from Nominet Trust we looked at how the concept of the ‘Internet of Things’ could be used to equip local farming tools with sensors that relay data over 3G networks to farmers’ mobile phones. Working Nairobi based tech firm IntelliSoft Plus we did lots of testing and ran focus groups, developing prototypes for tools that farmers could use to access critical data needed to make informed decisions. Farmers welcomed the low-cost and accessible prototype as opposed to high-tech and expensive external systems. By rolling this out to a range of farming tools, farmers will be able to access data about their farms, enabling them to build resilience to climate change and pests, access farming information to increase yields and quality, analyse productivity and trends, and decrease post-harvest food loss.