Two weeks ago Erick Vateta shared with you information about RabbitIQ, a platform where Rabbit farmers can tag their rabbits and use RabbitIQ to gain insight on the development and performance of their rabbits. It so happens that RabbitIQ is not the only farming platform available to Kenyan farmers.
Since February this year, farmers in Kenya have been busy sharing knowledge with one another across the country without the use of the Internet; and they are not just a bunch of remote Kenyans. By August, the number of farmers who have been helping each other by texting back and forth had grown from 2000 farmers (registered by mid April) to 10,000, a number that more than doubled to 21,000 between August and September. These farmers are using a new platform dubbed WeFarm.
WeFarm is a startup founded in January 2015 by Kenny Ewan and Claire Rhodes with a sole purpose of aiding people without access to the Internet to obtain farming tips and relevant information through peer to peer information sharing grounded on the standard SMS protocol. A farmer on the platform, for instance, would send a burning question via SMS to the WeFarm network, and within seconds or minutes, the farmer will receive his/her answer from another farmer with an answer – an answer that was sent via an SMS too.
According to information sent exclusively to Kachwanya.com, by the end of September farmers on WeFarm had asked 22,761 questions, received 44,427 answers and exchanged a total of 2,264,917 SMSes. On average, farmers send/receive 1.5 million SMSes per month. Currently these are farmers in Kenya and Peru with Tanzania set to join any time soon. Of the more than 22,000 users on WeFarm, 65 percent are monthly active users.
Given that it just started, WeFarm targets to reach the more than 500 million small scale farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America – farmers with access to mobile phones (90 percent) yet majority of whom do not have access to the Internet. To help them achieve this goal, WeFarm currently works closely with the UK charity Cafédirect Producers Foundation (CPF), who have a network of more than 280,000 farmers in coffee, tea and sugar co-operatives across Africa and Latin America with the hope of recruiting all farmers on CPF into the WeFarm programme.
Although WeFarm intend to help the more than “500 million smallholder farmers in the world who play a crucial role in global food production and are currently responsible for producing more than 70% of the world’s food, farmers that live in poverty, often surviving on less than $4 a day”, to get access to crucial farming information, it is easy to see that the other challenges these farmers face that include access to resources and finances will require more than what WeFarm currently offers. It would be a great deal if WeFarm partnered with some Micro finance or Banking Institutions so that users of WeFarm can easily access the much needed resource and financial help.
Another question that may crop into the mind of the reader is whether WeFarm will remain relevant once farmers get connected to the Internet. As WeFarm states in their website, “those that have access to a computer or tablet can get involved in any WeFarm conversation – even if it began with an SMS”.
If you are a farmer or related to any farmer and you have questions to ask WeFarm, ask them in the comment section below and we will address them in the next WeFarm article.