By Sharon Atieno
Agriculture is being taken to another level with new technologies at the farmer’s disposal. Mobile phones and the internet are constantly being used by agricultural researchers and experts to provide solutions to daily problems faced by farmers from predicting the weather, acquiring knowledge on diseases and pests to finding market for the produce among others. Kenya has not been left behind when it comes to such agricultural innovations.
In northern Kenya, mobile-phone based syndromic surveillance system was used in five counties for early detection and control of livestock diseases. This is a system whereby data is collected from sub-county based field veterinarians, agro-veterinary drug suppliers, abattoir workers and livestock market managers using electronic reporting form loaded in their smart phones. The data is posted to an online server daily or as soon as data is captured in data collection tool (ODK-Collect). The implementation of this system has precipitated policy dialogue on types of animal health service delivery models that the country should use.
Plantwise Knowledge Bank is a mobile phone and internet application that links all players in plant health system from government bodies, researchers, farmers, extension workers and plant clinics to the information they need for timely action against crop pests and diseases. It has free online and downloadable resources.
e.prod is a software application that helps to reduce risks and transaction cost in agricultural finance and is ideal for any agribusiness buying and/or processing produce from (contracted) small scale farmers. It is a Supplier Management Solution for small and middle enterprise aggregators and allows companies to manage a large outgrower base in terms of supplies, farmer payment, advances, loans, trainings, field monitoring and much more.
The partnership between eProd Solutions and aWhere generates localized forecasts for weather, information for pest and disease control, field actions, and crop stress and the information shared through short messages (sms) to farmers and field staff.
The vegetationmap4africa is an online interactive vegetation map designed as a decision support tool for selection of suitable indigenous tree species for restoration, forestry, agro forestry and landscape diversification projects. The Africa Tree Finder is an online version of the tool that can be installed on smart phones for use by practitioners in the field. The map also shows where planting materials for a specific species could be obtained.
The 2018 Big Data in Agriculture Convention convened by Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in Nairobi provided a platform for key players in the agricultural sector to share ideas and innovations. Nuru, an artificial intelligence system for giving diagnosis on crop pest and disease through the use of mobile phone is one such innovation. Others include the marple diagnostics, which is a real time mobile diagnostics for wheat rusts; Deliver it, an online application which links farmers to the actual market among others.
Mobile and internet are simple tools that are widely accessible by farmers, researchers and policy makers among other stake holders in the agricultural sector. By employing the use of such tools, policy makers can make decisions that impact positively on agricultural productions in the country. Farmers who utilize these can access markets for their produce, purchase farm inputs or predict the weather among many others, at the comfort of their homes. The key aim of these tools being to improve livelihoods, reduce food insecurity and poverty which are part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).