Sharing life changing solutions to farming challenges
Organisation URL: www.wefarm.info
WeFarm is a real-time, multilingual platform for farmers to share information to improve their crops and livelihoods – all without having access to anything more sophisticated that a basic mobile handset. The peer-to-peer knowledge platform was originally developed by Cafédirect Producers' Foundation, a charity working with tea, coffee and cocoa farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
60% of the world is still without internet access: most of these are farmers in off-grid and remote rural settings. These people do not lack wisdom: these are highly resourceful communities used to innovating to tackle the problems they face. With web access so low, however, what they have lacked until now is an inexpensive way to share their knowledge, innovation and solutions beyond the reach of word-of-mouth networks.
WeFarm aims to change that. Over the next three years they aim to connect 5m smallholders living on different continents, and speaking different languages, via a simple SMS-based service, run from any device - from the most sophisticated tablet to even the most basic phone.
There is a huge value for growers of the same crops to exchange information and advice on everything from pests, frosts, market fluctuations, alternate incomes, and to discuss the impact of climate change. Users will be able to access the community just by sending a local-rate text. The information shared will build into a crowdsourced and vetted database of community farming tips. The prototype used a Wordpress website, a PHP interface and Frontline SMS and Telerivet software so mass SMS can be sent and received through web-to-text tech. It was conducted in English, Spanish and Swahili. Bilingual volunteers micro-donate their time to translate the farmers’ questions and answers on their smartphone or computer from wherever they are in the world.
The pilot, funded by Nominet Trust, ran from 2009 to 2012 with smallholders in Kenya, Tanzania and Peru. The Knight Foundation funded the second phase of the platform’s development, which launched in August 2014. WeFarm was also a winner of the 2014 Google Impact Challenge, securing £500k to make the system more robust, secure and durable and to launch as a social enterprise subsidiary of the charity, seeking to pioneer a groundbreaking and self-sustaining business model. WeFarm has a target to connect 100,000 smallholder farmers globally by the end of 2015.
Image courtesy of WeFarm
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014