By: Dr Samuel Adediran, Assistant Director of Market Development and Access at GALVmed and Su Kahumbu, Founder of iCow
iCow, is a mobile phone platform that shares agricultural information with farmers in Kenya. It currently has a database of 136,000 farmers, of which more than 65,000 are subscribers (as of January 2015).
In December 2012, GALVmed partnered with iCow on a pilot project. This project randomly sent East Coast Fever (ECF)-related texts to iCow’s 12,000 subscribers. This pilot showed that the texts were not well targeted (only 5% of texts sent were ECF related) and the information was not available on demand.
We worked together to develop another platform that would fill these holes found in the initial project. GALVmed supported iCow to develop the Smart Agri Info platform, which complements iCow’s existing knowledge-based platforms to improve livestock farmer’s access to agricultural knowledge and to provide tips for improved production and livelihood. The GALVmed support also updated the three iCow portals: Mashauri (Advice), Experts and Kalenda (livestock production calendar).
The Smart Agri Info platform was aimed to:
- Develop Smart Agri-Info Tips
- Make agriculture information-demand driven & available 24/7
- Update “Veterinary” (the experts section of the database).
Smart Agri-Info Tips, also referred to as Smart Farm Tips, allows farmers to search for agriculture-related information 24/7, at 3 Kenyan Shillings (ksh) per text. Farmers dial *285# on their mobile phones and access the platform. They can then choose to receive best practice texts on soil, crops as well as horticulture and livestock practices including: animal production, management, feeds, reproduction, disease control, processing and marketing.
Under livestock diseases for instance, farmers can choose specific diseases such as East Coast fever (ECF), Rift Valley Fever, Newcastle Disease and Infectious Bursal Disease (Gumboro) diseases. It is also possible to specify other areas such as symptoms, management, prevention, control and treatment of diseases. Depending on these choices, farmers receive a number of informative texts. iCow is developed predominantly for feature phones and does not require a smart phone.
Smart Farm Tips was launched in April 2014 and after two weeks of Safaricom marketing and farmers who randomly accessed it, the platform received 9,096 total searches – 13% of which were chicken and cow related. The surge in hits crashed iCow’s client server. iCow is now investing in improved infrastructure with higher bandwidth to cater for the anticipated increase in clientele.
We look forward to our future partnership with iCow as it grows and responds to farmers’ needs. Its reception among farmers has been very positive. Read how one farmer improved his life and farm with texting.