NAIROBI, Kenya — There are currently more than 500 million small-scale farmers throughout the world, most of whom live beneath the extreme poverty line. Notably, in Kenya more than 80 percent of milk and food is produced by these farmers, meaning that staple commodities are dependent on a struggling segment of the population. However, farmers in Kenya are rising to the challenge with two new technologies revolutionizing agriculture for the country and other areas of the world.
The first improvement is the WeFarm app, an offline texting service for unconnected farmers. Developed by Kenny Ewan in 2015, farmers subscribe to WeFarm by texting a preset message to join a farming network. When a user is struggling with a certain problem, they can text their group with questions. Other farmers then respond with advice to solve the problem and share information about what worked for them, typically within a few hours. Furthermore, WeFarm technicians in the middle assist with any translation barriers to ensure information is able to be disseminated across multiple continents.
The app is most useful for remote farmers who have no access to the internet or education centers but can make use of more ubiquitous cellular networks. WeFarm utilizes ambassadors and radio advertisements to continue adding users specifically in isolated locations.
The service has already expanded to Uganda and Peru, and plans are in place for Cote D’Ivoire, India, Brazil and Tanzania. To date, WeFarm has helped more than 43,000 registered farmers in these areas.
Farmers in Kenya have also devised a new milk container to combat repeated production loss. Originally, pail-collected milk was prone to spillage during transport or when animals kicked it over. Additionally, leaving the product in open containers increased the likelihood of contamination. To fight this, multiple international organizations collaborated to design Mazzi, a new container capturing greater milk revenues for agricultural workers.
Mazzi has several advantages. The 10-liter containers are closed and stackable allowing milk to be easily transported over longer distances. They are also durable and reusable, contrasting with an earlier attempt to switch to ‘Jerry cans’ that often cracked and collected dirt. Productivity is increased as well due to a funnel attachment which allows farmers to use both hands. The containers double as a device to check for infections in cows. Finally and most importantly, Mazzi containers are priced at about five dollars per jug, dramatically cutting costs compared to the closest competitor offerings at around $30.
So far, Mazzis are being used in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, however, expansion into India, Peru, Morocco, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is also expected.
These poverty-reducing innovations are only two examples within a country that represents a growing economic hub in Africa. Contributing one-third of the GDP and three-quarters of the labor force, farmers in Kenya are definitely a tremendous driver of this change.
– Zack Machuga