Farmers can now arrest disease outbreaks on mobile, via ukulima.net
Posted Wednesday, February 22 2012 at 17:04
Trailblazer applications for farmers:
- MFarm: Simple, efficient and effective, the application allows rural Kenyans to know the market price of the products they sell in regional markets. They can also use the service to find markets for their crops or buy fertiliser.
- iCow: An SMS and voice-based mobile phone application for small-scale dairy farmers in Kenya. It’s something of a virtual veterinary midwife, helping farmers track the gestation stages of their cows, while giving them valuable tips on cow breeding, animal nutrition and milk production efficiency. Each text message costs about Sh10.
- Weather Bug Widget: A free Android app is a weather website. It gives farmers a lot of detail about the weather.
Application developers have turned farmland into playing fields on which they test, not hoes and ploughs, but software that makes work easier for farmers and often extension officers.
In concerted efforts to breathe new life into the ageing farming practices that bedevil many small scale farmers in the country, tech experts have introduced innovations like MFarm and iCow.
Enter Ukulima.net, a new platform developed by Pamoja East Africa.
Ukulima.net is designed to be a ‘twitter for farmers’ and enables farmers to have profiles, log in, connect with and follow other farmers from different parts of the country.
“We have seen the impact of mobile in Kenya and also of social networking and we thought that there must be a way through which we could leverage on the popularity of both technologies to benefit Kenyan farmers,” explains Mr Tom Kikwai the programme manager of Ukulima.net.
Ukulima.net picks up on the shortcomings of the age-old extension services programmes that were once the lifeline for farmers in the country but have since been abandoned, resulting in a knowledge gap in the country’s agricultural sector.
“Our main purpose for setting up Ukulima.net was to improve knowledge sharing because we realised that a lot of farmers do not have avenues through which they can get knowledge on new technologies since extension services are not as effective as before”, explains Mr Kikwai.
This has seen the continued use of poor farming practices as farmers remain unaware of new technologies to improve production.
In addition to this, the information gap has also led to the rise of middlemen who bank on the ignorance of many farmers and exploit them.
Open to other developers
“We have a new breed of young farmers in the country who are using new technology and equipment and they are doubling or tripling their yields”, states Mr Kikwai.
“However, the majority of small scale farmers remain stuck in the old ways so there is a gap between the old and the new and Ukulima.net plans to fill that gap.”
Ukulima.net is open to all stakeholders in the agricultural sector and is free for anyone to create a profile and join the network.
Once a user registers, he/she can do a search for other farmers, extension workers or veterinary officers based on specifications like location, activities or interests. A user can then either connect or follow another user.
“For example, if you are a dairy farmer in Kiambu County, you would be able to search for other dairy farmers in the county.