Telefónica start up WeFarm enables small-scale farmers to share knowledge and connect with one anther through SMS messages
WeFarm, a unique mobile platform that connects farmers around the world using SMS, has been nominated for the MEFFY 2015 Innovation in Technology award.
A current Telefónica Wayra start up, WeFarm provides a free, peer-to-peer service that facilitates knowledge sharing in the global agricultural community. WeFarm users can ask questions about farming and receive crowdsourced answers from fellow farmers across Africa, Latin America and Asia by sending an SMS from even the most basic mobile phone.
This award recognises technical innovation that is advancing and growing the mobile ecosystem by overcoming existing technical barriers or by producing new technologies to drive consumers to use mobile first.
Despite six billion out of seven billion of the world’s population having access to mobile phones [United Nations], 75% are still unable to access the internet and it’s more often than not these people who are in most need of better information and support services, said Telefónica.
Small-scale farmers are no exception and comprise a sector that faces many challenges as a result. Whether it is tackling soil erosion or coping with changes to climatic conditions, these are shared struggles regardless of location that without the internet lack access to shared solutions, noted Kenny Ewan, CEO of WeFarm.
Ewan commented: “We believe we have created something genuinely pioneering and groundbreaking. Our system allows a farmer in Kenya, 20 miles walk from the nearest village or expert advice, to receive vital ideas and knowledge to his or her phone, completely free, in their own language, without having to leave the farm or buy anything new.”
Users simply send their question to WeFarm via SMS message, using their local mobile phone provider. WeFarm then uses the internet to share the message through their unique volunteer supported translation system to other WeFarm users, who receive it via SMS.
With many of the latest advances in farming technology focused on online tools, WeFarm returned to basic mobile technology and SMS to provide the internet for people without internet.
Today WeFarm has more than 23,000 smallholder farmers worldwide using the service since launching in Kenya in February 2015.
James Lasbrey, head of wholesale messaging, Telefónica, commented: “We understand the power and popularity of the SMS and how it is making a big difference to people in developing countries who suffer from poor connectivity or no internet access. In this sense, we also recognised WeFarm as a great message initiative and knew it fundamentally understood that in order to do something which will support communities around the world, it had to innovate using the tools that people already have; in this case a basic mobile phone that can use SMS. We are proud to be supporting the initiative globally using our connections to other carriers and relationships with our trusted aggregator partners.”
WeFarm is part of Telefonica’s start-up accelerator, Wayra and will be seeking a round of investment at the end of this year to continue to scale and improve millions of smallholder farmers’ livelihoods.