WeFarm recently received $260,000 funding from the Knight Foundation as a winner of the Knight News Challenge: Mobile awards.
After such a positive year in 2012, where we continued to successfully pilot and improve WeFarm in Peru, Kenya and Tanzania, as well as develop an ambitious business model, the whole team is delighted to receive this award.
The funding will be used to begin the scale-up of WeFarm activities, including building a bigger and better technology platform, and implementing the first phase of our innovative business plan. An exciting 2013 ahead!
WeFarm enables farmers with no access to internet to share knowledge and ideas with other farmers internationally in their own language. One tea farmer from Kenya called Jacob Gituma has already provided lots of useful information to farmers in Peru and Tanzania, where the local WeFarm member farmers value his knowledge and ideas.
One of the fundamental ideas behind WeFarm is that rural, small-scale farmers around the world have plenty of innovative ideas, as well as generations worth of farming knowledge, to share. However, with over 90% lacking access to internet they have very limited scope to communicate this information, or request it from their peers.
The train the trainers sessions that are held as part of the WeFarm pilot projects are designed to highlight the vast potential for peer support networks by asking each individual to annomously write down a good idea they have had on their farm, and a question they always wanted to ask.
For example, during today’s session in Rungwe, Tanzania several farmers had questions about compost, while just a few meters away other farmers were writing about ideas for using animal dung as an organic fertilizer. One farmer, who wasn’t gaining much income from tea, had a question about diversifying his farm and income sources, while on the other side of the room a local woman was explaining how she had planted small areas of coffee, and built a basic fish pond, to gain additional income.
This exchange of relevant knowledge between peers was in just one room with 16 smallholder farmers from the same area of rural Tanzania; imagine the knowledge, ideas and questions there are to be shared among the world’s millions of small scale famers once connected by WeFarm…
WeFarm has just been used for the first time in Peru by smallholder coffee farmers at the CAC Chirinos and CAC Frontera San Ignacio Cooperatives. Not only was this the first pilot of WeFarm in Latin America, but it was also the first test of our pioneering translation module that allows smallholder farmers to share knowledge internationally – a huge moment for WeFarm after 2 years of work.
The WeFarm team, and our pilot members in Peru, had quite a few obstacles to overcome to make International WeFarm Day a reality, including a 5 day long power cut! However when the moment came to connect the platform everything worked seamlessly and 30 farmers in rural Peru spent 2 days exchanging knowledge and ideas with 15 smallholder tea farmers in Kenya using nothing more than a simple mobile phone and local SMS messages.
WeFarm makes this possible through the innovative application of text-web-text software, including Frontline SMS. Through this rural farmers, with no other access to the internet, can obtain information they need to improve their livelihoods. Imagine a Wikipedia whose users are the world’s 70% with no internet access. We believe this is the first successful demonstration of this concept worldwide.
My name is Clorinda Cruz Exlida Vilela. I think the project has given me a lot of knowledge because I never thought in my life that I could learn to be in contact with people and ideas in other countries.
I am very happy that at fifty years of age I have obtained this knowledge. In my life as small coffee farmer I am grateful to have my beautiful farms and to harvest my lovely coffee.
I work on my farm to grow coffee and sow maize, beans, and cocoa, I also keep chickens, guinea pigs and ducks.
I think this project is a great opportunity to be able to communicate with small producers around the world, and to share experiences and stories of our lives in the country. this exchange of ideas and experiences will help us strengthen our knowledge.
It is innovative in the fact that we can all access it either by mobile phone messages or internet.
Every farmer that lives in a different part of the world has a distinct reality, but we share a common goal which is to reach a better quality of life.
- Oscar Saucedo Pastor
WeFarm has been taking its first steps in Latin America this week, with baseline studies and pilot project at CAC Chirinos, a small Peruvian coffee cooperative in the beautiful Andean foothills.
With the successful first pilot project having taken place with Kenyan tea farmers, the next step is for WeFarm (or CultiVamos as it is called in Spanish) to be tested with coffee farmers and become an international project, bridging the language and communication barriers between continents.
Kady and Kenny from CPF are visiting a number of smallholder coffee farmers in the communities surrounding Chirinos, including representatives of local women’s and youth groups, to build up a picture of the local context, and the way in which different communications tools are currently being used
Although the survey taking is still on-going, one interesting trend to emerge already is that no other SMS or Mobile projects are currently known to local farmers; a very different story to our farming communities in Kenya where mobile technology is being utilised for many purposes, and a powerful reason to get WeFarm up and running as soon as possible!
(from left to right, top row to bottom) Henry Mwenda, Moses Ntonjira, Job Kinyua, Winnie Karimi, Geoffrey Mugambi, Jacob Koome, Regina Kananu, John Ntika, Florah Gakii, Doris Nderi, Patrick Ngebere, John Mwithalie, Ezekiel Muriira Munoru, Jacob Gituma, Kenny Ewan, Joseph Kaigongi, Lucy Kanario, Sabina Kariru Goerge, Sylvia Ng’eno.
All the members of the WeFarm pilot have just added their own names live on the website! Asante Sana!
Tuesday was a big day for WeFarm – the start of our first pilot project activities at Kiegoi Tea Factory in Kenya! The 15 members of the pilot group are representatives of local women’s and youth groups, and the farming community. They have all signed up after participating in the project baseline survey to be the pioneers of the WeFarm platform, and will spend the next period interacting with the first test version of the platform by text message and computer, and being part of an internet and computer education course.
It is a fundamental principal of the WeFarm project that the farmers who are going to be using the platform have a huge say in how it is developed, and will function in their local context, and so these pilot sessions are a very important step in the process.
Follow live updates from Kenya @we_farm
After completing the baseline exercise in Kenya with Kiegoi Tea Factory, Wefarm was in Tukuyu last week, a small rural farming town about 800km from Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, to launch Wefarm and conduct a similar exercise with the farmers At Rungwe Smallholder Tea Growers Association (RSTGA).
Day one was spent with the executive committee of RSTGA, a group of dedicated individuals chosen by the smallholder farmers as their representatives. “Chai Yako: Tunza ikutunze” – “Your tea: care for it, it will care for you” is the opening slogan used by members to greet each other at meetings, a true pointer to the value of farming in the livelihoods of smallholder growers. Throughout the three days exercise I was accompanied by the RSTGA officials Lebi Gabriel (CEO), Johnson Mwakasege (Chairman), and Jackson Mwampulule (Secretary), and we owe a great deal of gratitude to them and Wakulima Tea Comany for their support.
The next couple of days involved travels of up to 48kms to meet groups of smallholder farmers, and the need to have Wefarm at Tukuyu was very apparent: Not all the farmers have mobile phones but most have radios and there is no local radio station for them to get local news and air their views as part of the local community. With Wefarm being accessible to all through digital devices like mobile phones and radio technology then no one shall be left out. Aside from the communication challenges a solution to mobile recharging is also needed as farmers have to travel up to 5 kms to recharge their handsets.