Asking for help and support via the internet has become a way of life for many of the world’s population. But what happens if you don’t have access to the World Wide Web and need to ask for advice?
Well, Kenny Ewan has devised a service to assist farmers worldwide who happen to live in areas without an internet connection, which he describes a the ‘Internet for people without Internet’.
Ewan, is the co-founder of WeFarm, a service which uses SMS to let farmers exchange information across continents which debuted in Kenya back in January.
“I wanted to make a platform where farmers could share information with other farmers and create solutions for themselves, rather than being prescribed what to do.” – Kenny Ewan, co-founder of WeFarm
The way the service works, is a farmer sends an SMS with a query to WeFarm. Their question is translated and shared with other farmers both in the same country and worldwide. Its goal is to have farmers come up with their own solutions and WeFarm helps them achieve that by facilitating a peer-to-peer platform.
As well as question and answer sessions, farmers can also share tips with each other.
So far WeFarm has answered over 50,000 questions and has 3,000 farmers in its network, the bulk of which use old-fashioned Java-based phones.
Currently, the service is operational in Kenya, Peru, and the Dominican Republicnut hopes to expand to Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Haiti, India and Columbia, reaching 500,000 farmers by the end of next year.
To handle language translations, and the company relies on a global network of volunteers who translate messages in Spanish, Swahili and French.
Kenya was chosen as the launch country due to the size of its mobile culture. Ewan claims that some people have learned how to write a text message even if they can’t write with pen and paper.
WeFarm has also debuted their product at local schools so the children, generally quicker to pick up new tech skills, can teach their parents.
“There are lots of families who share a single mobile phone so even if dad can’t write a text message, someone who is younger in the family might be much more skilled in using technology”
Kenny Ewan, co-founder of WeFarm
Ewan worked for seven years in Peru working with farming communities when he became deeply interested in agriculture and sustainability, feeling that farmers had generations of experience, ingenuity and resourcefulness that were being wasted as the knowledge was not being passed on.
So, in 2010, as part of a project for UK charity The Cafedirect Producers’ Foundation, Ewan began to test his concept ofan SMS-based Wikipedia.
For years later, WeFarm received KS 30,652,906 prize money through the Google Impact Challenges which transformed WeFarm from a project to a startup.
Future plans for WeFarm include sending weather updates, information on markets, and the latest crop prices.
WeFarm’s data could also potentially be used to map challenges in a supply chain for a supermarket or distributer as well as mapping the spread of crop diseases.