Agriculture forms the backbone of most of the economies of African countries. The sector comprises of more than 50% of the GDP in most countries. Agriculture is therefore too important to be left in the hands of the government alone and many players have come on board to boost this source of livelihood for more than half of the African population.
The sector of information communication technology has been instrumental in coming up with innovations that improve production and marketability of the agricultural products. Here are some outstanding apps that have changed the lives of farmers in some countries in the continent.
The iCow platform has a series of dairy agri-products which are available over a simple menu system. All the farmers need to do is dial and access a simple menu that provides them with tips on how to subscribe to the various products. After the subscription, the system transmits messages to users at intervals depending on the product choice.
The objective of iCow is to increase the productivity of farmers through access to knowledge and experts and also encourage younger generations to venture into farming.
Esoko is the most popular Agricultural platform in Africa for tracking and sharing market intelligence. Esoko has a range of apps from which farmers can choose depending on their needs.
The app links farmers to markets with automatic market prices and offers from buyers, then disseminates personalized extension messages based on crop and location. The innovation also manages extension officers and leads farmers through SMS messaging.
In essence, Esoko is a completely customizable comprehensive platform designed to bring a transformation on how farmers manage their information needs, which is put together into one easy-to-use interface and with a back-up of a unique deployment team that will be of help anywhere.
The FarmerConnect Platform is a cloud-based and mobile-enabled platform which delivers personalized agricultural extension services and text/audio information in local dialects to smallholders and farmers who otherwise lack the information or cannot comprehend it from the traditional sources. Such kind of services help the farmers in staying connected with information as well as aiding agencies on a daily basis. The outcomes for farmers are increased yields or incomes, and consequently a reduction in hunger, poverty and under-nutrition.
In short, FarmersConnect hosts a one-stop market place for agricultural communities, which includes service seekers (Farmers), service enablers (Government, NGOs and Private Agencies) and service providers (Agronomists, Market Trackers, Weather Stations).
M-Shamba presents an interactive platform which provides information to farmers through the use of cell phones.
M-Shamba capitalizes on the various features of a mobile phone, which include cross-platform applications that are accessible in both smart and low-end phones, as well as SMS that provides information on production, harvesting, marketing, credit, weather and climate. The app provides customized information to farmers basing on their location and crop or animal preferences. Farmers are also able to share information with each other on various topics through this platform.
M-Shamba is currently being used by 4000 rice farmers in Kenya to help them in adapting new technologies in the farming if rice.
Mobile Agribiz is a web and SMS mobile application which assists farmers in making the decision on when and how to plant crops, select the best crops for a given area through the application of climate and weather data, and connect to the available market.
The app helps link farmers to buyers, and also assists them in sourcing important and relevant information (like how to plant crops and how to use fertilizers) as well as necessary data aggregates (for instance weather, crop pricing) from a variety of sources. Farmers gain easy access to customers by sending an SMS with their phone number, information on goods, prices and quantities for sale. This information is normally plotted into a map on servers, thereby enabling customers to see farmers’ information, the goods they are selling, their location, quantities, and then make a connection.
An app developed for rural Africa, Rural eMarket is a simple yet outstanding solution to market intelligence, to be used on smartphones, tablets or computers. Rural eMarket is multi-lingual and easy to adapt to due to its user friendliness, but most importantly, it is affordable for most of the rural projects that are its sole target. This app thrives on the premise that the application of appropriate ICT solutions can lead to an improvement in transparency and access to market information, hence bringing a transformation to rural livelihoods.
Although ICT brings about noble solutions for rural areas in Africa, there are many regions that do not benefit from the new technologies due to illiteracy, connectivity problems and the inability to come up with an affordable and adapted solution.