Thursday, October 6, 2016

Reaching the last mile : how WeFarm is about to bring the revolution into communicating to smallholder farmers

Mondays morning can be though, but this week i had a fascinating one. I hosted a short presentation of WeFarm, a social entreprise that offers sms services for peer-to-peer farmer advice. Though many young people are tech oriented and many have access to internet and social media in Kenya, the vast majority of farmers still own feature phones, i.e. cannot access the internet. This is the gap that WeFarm adresses.

They have a very interesting business model :  all the sms are free to the farmers (at least on Safaricom), the services are funded by the organization that want to use the data WeFarm are collecting.  This is the first business model i have seen that is very realistic about farmer capability and willingness to pay!

At the back of WeFarm there are data analyst who develop machine learning approaches to improve on how feedback is sent to farmer but also to make their data valuable to potential customers. WeFarm is also hoping to introduce a peer-rating system where farmers will be able to 'upvote' good pieces of information, ensuring that other farmers receive quality advice and answers.
most farmers still have feature phones

It is a promising start up, clearly addressing the gap of bringing the information to the last mile namely the smallholder farmer. However, this morning we also raised many questions and challenges such as:
  • How can WeFarm work in pastoral areas where farmers are likely to be moving and what to know about conditions on the other side of the country and not per se from their neighbors?
  • How can expert knowlege be introduced in WeFarm business models?
  • How can accuracy of advice be improved?

We had an interesting debate from which both sides, WeFarm and scientists could learn from each other! Wanna know more, check up WeFarm's site (and if you are a farmer, register to their services! it is free!) 

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