Agriculture

WeFarm is Google for farmers who aren’t online

By Oliver Smith 3 August 2016
Summary

How do you bring the gift of knowledge to the poorest corners of the world?

How do farmers in the middle of nowhere, without the internet, figure out what to do if their crops come down with a new disease? Or find out which breed of cows is best for their needs?

You or I could do a quick Google. But for the poorest farmers across Kenya, Uganda and Peru, this just isn’t an option.

WeFarm is an innovative solution that lets farmers ‘search’ a question with only a basic mobile phone and a text message.

Google for people without Google

After working in Peru for a few years on a number of development projects, Kenny Ewan saw the power of giving local people access to information and came up with a solution to help.

“I realised that a crowdsourcing model is incredibly scalable,” Ewan told The Memo. “And I saw the potential to create social impact on a massive scale.”

A farmer can text a question – like how tall tomatoes should grow before you tie them to stakes – and this will be relayed to other farmers, when they text back their answer it’s sent back to the first farmer and even translated if needed.

The model has proved wildly successful.

“In the past year we have invested a lot of time and energy into marketing strategies aimed at rural communities – radio shows and partnerships have supported rapid growth in user numbers,” says Ewan.

Indeed today more than 70,000 farmers are using WeFarm as a replacement for the internet, letting them instantly tap into real-world expert knowledge.

Questions can even be translated through WeFarm if needed.

Curious farmers & cannibal chickens

While the most common questions are related to crops, livestock, pests and diseases, WeFarm has also had some more unusual questions from farmers.

One farmer asked why his chickens kept eating their own eggs, fearing they’d accidentally started some kind of chicken cannibalism. Instead someone else explained that chickens eat their eggs when they don’t have enough calcium in their diet.

Other top tips included farmers recommending old oil barrels to use as makeshift beehives to start producing honey, or reusing weeds to act as fertiliser or animal feed.

The next step is for Ewan to finish a £1.3m fundraising round and plough this into increasing the number of farmers using the platform to 1m, helped by upcoming launches in Tanzania and India.

“Our vision as a business is to change the way that half of the world’s population access information.”

WeFarm is well on its way to achieving that.