This Agricultural Guide On A Phone Helps Increase Developing-World Farmers’ Yields
By Ben Schiller
When Kenyan farmers need to know whether to take their cows to the vet, they can now just ask their phones. Using a popular new service called DigiFarm, they can use their phones to get simple information that will let them determine if their cow is infected with mastitis (a common disease), and find out whether they can treat the problem themselves or whether they need professional help. Referring to their handsets, they no longer have to rely on their neighbor’s opinion, or what someone told them about mastitis months or years before.
“A lot of smallholder farmers are very poor and they wait until it’s too late because they don’t want to spend the money,” says Leesa Shrader, who leads work on DigiFarm for Mercy Corps, one of several groups developing the platform. “The cow dies and they’ve lost an $800 asset, which can be devastating to the families. With DigiFarm, they can pull the training when they want it.”
DigiFarm, the winner of the developing world technology category of Fast Company‘s 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards, not only contains valuable information on livestock farming, horticulture, and growing crops. Farmers can also access micro-loans and discounted “inputs” like seeds and fertilizer. That way, they can boost the yields of their properties, which are typically only five acres or less. “When we spoke to farmers, we found they really want to learn how to become better farmers–how farming can be a business and not a horrible life of hard labor with no money,” says Shrader.
Photo courtesy of P. Casier.