New App Helps Farmers in Kenya Find Climate-Smart Seeds
Friday, June 19, 2015
A new app launched in Kenya June 10 could help millions of farmers adapt to climate change by offering information on the best seeds for changing growing conditions, agriculture experts said.
Agriculture accounts for more than 70 percent of Kenya’s employment, according to U.S. government figures, so an increase in food production would dramatically improve living standards.
The free “MbeguChoice” app is the first tool of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and was developed by a 25-year-old Kenyan software engineer. “MbeguChoice” means seed choice in Swahili.
It comprises an online database, which is also available via a website, and could be expanded to other countries if its roll-out proves successful, officials behind the project said.
“The platform provides information on special characteristics [of different kinds of seeds] for drought tolerance, and the best altitude and area for growing a particular crop,” Philip Leley, an adviser to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization who gave the developers technical information, said in a telephone interview from Nairobi.
If a farmer in the mid-altitude region of Makueni County, for example, searches for drought-tolerant corn varieties to plant during the rainy season, the app would show five kinds of seeds the grower could buy which would do well in that area.
The online database, containing more than 200 crop varieties, is backed by seed producers who believe it will help drive business.