WeFarm: Connecting Small farmers without internet
There are about 500 million small-scale farmers on Earth, and most of them live on less than $1 a day. They’re often separated from larger population centers, or lack the means to educate themselves on specialized farming methods. Internet connections might be less common in the developing world, but mobile technology is pervasive. Today, 90% of smallholder farmers are able to access a basic mobile phone. In Africa especially, people have turned directly to mobiles instead of owning first personal computers.
WeFarm is a peer-to-peer (P2P) knowledge sharing platform for small-scale farmers in rural communities, which allows farmers to ask questions via SMS shortcodes and receive answers from other registered users. The platform is open to anyone, including experts and those wishing to do business with farmers, and is available in both English and Swahili.
Farmers can register on WeFarm’s service completely for free just by sending an SMS message to the national number. Once they’ve signed up to the service, they can then ask any question regarding farming and WeFarm distributes that question to other farmers locally, nationally and internationally, and the farmer who asked the question should receive between three to five crowd-sourced answers within a couple of hours without having to leave their farm, without having internet access and without having to spend any money.
WeFarm CEO and co-founder Kenny Ewan describes the birth of the idea behind WeFarm: "I spent seven years in Latin America based out of Peru, where I worked for an international NGO. A lot of the communities were forming agricultural-based communities and I saw people creating innovative grassroots solutions for common challenges—but you go a couple of miles down the road and people have the same challenges but hadn’t heard of the same ideas or solutions." The peer-to-peer aspect is also essential as Ewan explains: "These populations have generations worth of experience to share and we can do something that isn’t as paternalistic as some development and international projects."
Up to date, there have been more than 220,000 questions asked and more than 315,000 answers for its 162,000 registered farmers.