How Can We Let Agricultural Knowledge Rain From the Clouds?

How Can We Let Agricultural Knowledge Rain From the Clouds?

There is a huge gap in ‘farming best practice’ knowledge amongst smallholder farmers in the rural areas of Africa. Smallholder farmers would adopt better practices based on sustainable agricultural techniques such as soil conservation, companion planting, use of farmyard manure, if they had the necessary guidance on what and when to do.

You don’t know what you don’t know!

Limited knowledge is corrosive; lack of information negatively impacts every part of smallholder’s efforts to be viable from land productivity to post-harvest losses.

When farmers are asked where they get their Agro-related information from, the usual response is “I ask my neighbor or father.” But who ensures that the information from the neighbor is accurate?

Help is at hand; there are experts in the agricultural space with ample knowledge. Experts that are in the business of supporting smallholder farmers. But despite good intentions these experts often struggle to distribute their information to the audiences that need it in a scalable way. Oftentimes they can not get access to these agricultural communities due to poor or challenging infrastructure.

Other times information and knowledge sharing rely on cumbersome manual/analogue modes of training such as flipcharts. Regretfully, current training practices are inefficient, impractical and above all non-scalable. How many trainers would you need to train 500 farmers? What about a thousand farmers? And how long would that take?

Recognising the massive need for knowledge and the severe limitations of analogue training methods Kuza has developed a digital training platform that give the expression of “knowledge raining from the clouds” a new meaning.

Imagine a scenario where a smallholder farmer can access an agricultural mentor who can provide information on any farming topic, on-demand and in context. More than that, imagine a world where a trainer is empowered to repeat the topic 400 times without tiring and is always connected/available to the farmer via the farmer’s phone.

This is possible and it’s happening in the fields today!

Kuza’s Agripreneur Digital Platform provides the farmer with access to information and to training using their smartphone. The platform’s primary focus is to improve smallholder productivity and advance best practice agricultural techniques. Recognising that, to be successful, the smallholder farmer needs more than information, Kuza’s platform provides farmers with access to quality and affordable agri-products and services. Scaled as a hybrid model, the platform provides farmers with on-demand information to make them better farmers and better businessmen.

Recognising that the human touch is still essential Kuza supports each group of farmers with a dynamic and competent Agripreneur (AE) who is specially trained to provide back-up and support for the smallholders farmer in his community.

After years of working with communities in the informal sector, Kuza has evolved and optimised its training techniques. Learning ‘by doing’ Kuza has discovered that the most effective training has the following characteristics:

  • On-demand, content that is contextualized and short in length (typically 3–5 mins)
  • Video
  • Delivered by a trusted member of the community member (e.g. Agri-preneuer) using Kuza’s micro-distribution techniques

Kuza’s model has been globally recognized and awarded winning model, as we’ve recently won the World Summit Awards.

Additionally, advanced technology is being used to decide on which specific content is displayed to which cohort of farmers based on a machine learning algorithm that learns the importance and preference of topics at the given time. This allows for content to be targeted according to the timely needs of the farmers. The curated, contextualized content can then be delivered at scale, and provides three layers of value to not only the micro-entrepreneurs and the community members but also for stakeholders involved.

Kuza’s EDGE platform acts as the gateway to knowledge, mentoring, products and services. Its provides as a one-stop solution enabling each Agripreneur (AE) to manage 200 farmers with ease.

Another example of knowledge raining from the clouds is the Agricultural Observatory Platform. Developed by The World Bank Group and presented by Dr. Erick Fernandes during the DAT Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya on April 5 and 6, 2019 Agricultural Observatory tracks food systems in an attempt to understand and alleviate the global food price crisis. By utilizing ground and satellite data both from the public and the private domain, machine learning algorithms are used to tailor-make, location-based agro-advice. The service is available here:

Similar to Kuza’s EDGE platform, the Agricultural Observatory Platform has been developed with the end-user in mind. This means that anyone from Governments to smallholder farmers can use the service — with ease! Smallholder farmers no longer need a crystal ball to see what climatic changes and diseases are about to impact their livelihood. The service is the closest thing to clairvoyant powers! The significance of this service is enormous — accurate weather and pest information at the right time is critical in farming.

With disruptive agricultural technologies such as Kuza’s EDGE platform and The World Bank Group’s Agricultural Observatory Platform, we are starting to see the beginnings of ever brighter future for smallholders farmers. A future where farmers are supported and empowered with information, quality goods and services and access to markets. A future where the farmer is no longer limited by the size of his farm or its location. Digital technology is beginning to disrupt the smallholder farming sector as it has done in commercial agriculture and many other sectors.

Agricultural knowledge is beginning to rain from clouds — albeit, digital ones!

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