Agritools is the official communication partner of Yeesal AgriHub, the first Agri tech hub in West Africa, created by a group of young people expert in agriculture with different profiles and skills. In March Agritools assisted the implementation of the communication strategy for the launching event of the hub, an agrihackathon where the Community of youth developed three application prototypes in Thies during three days. During the AgriHackathon more than 50 people coming both from the public and private sector and the civil society took part in the event and shared feedbacks and inputs for the future implementation of the Hub project.
Agritools has been presented at the Internet Festival, an international journalism event based in Pisa (Italy) every year. We spoke about our project and the technology startups, hubs and business incubators in Africa that we met in our way. A focus was given on how innovators are playing a leading role in changing models of economic development by using highly digitalised participatory democracy practices and innovations in Africa. We had the pleasure to be invited by Donata Columbro, an Italian journalist and communication strategist, and to meet new interesting people like Cheik Fall, a journalist-activist from Senegal and Gildas Guiella, the founder of the first fablab in West Africa based in Burkina Faso, Ouagalab.
We took part, with other journalists, to the panel “the journalism in the twenty- first century” at Internazionale Festival, Ferrara (Italy). Elisabetta talked about Agritools project and her role as a freelancer covering development issues by using innovative tools and strategies. The focus was on how difficult is to be a multi-skilled journalist today, in order to be able to approach several practices of jourmalism such as data journalism, video documentary production, investigation and storytelling.
We shared the Agritools experience during the African Summer School 2015, the first school in Italy focused on thematics such as Business, Licterature, Philosophy in Africa and dedicated to both Italians and African of the diaspora living in Italy. Agritools brought its contribution by sharing the experience between Africa and Europe and explaining how youth are finding innovative solution lo launch startups in the primary sector.
Agritools was presented to Development Journalism Forum, organised by Consorzio Ong Piemontesiin Torino, in collaboration with other European Media outlets that focus on development issues. We talked about how the media should speak about Africa and how Agritools is trying to promote the real side of agriculture innovations promoted by young African people.
On Saturday 30th May Agritools has been presented at OrtinFestival 2015, a local event based in Piedmont (Italy) that brought together many exerts in innovation in agriculture, food and green gardens. Here you can download the programme (in Italian). We spoke about our project and the great startups and experiences we met in Africa, as you can see in the picture! Waiting for the next conference in June!
Go to the website, read the tutorial, learn how to watch our contents and read the stories from Africa.
We will constantly upload new research material that we collected in our three month travels in Senegal, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana, with a crowdsourcing space for African organizations and enterprises in collaboration with e-agriculture.
Experts, hubs, startups, Ngos and farmers: we tried to get as many testomonies as possible, in order to analyse what this digital revolution impact in the primary sector in Africa and how the institutions and development actors should concentrate for the future actions.
The Agritools platform is free and available for everyone, with the special aim to reach the youth and help them understand the real value of working in agriculture in an innovative and fruitful way.
A long road brought us to Cheptais, a village located in the extreme West of Kenya, close to the border with Uganda, with a condition of isolation that is permeating every aspect of the daily life for the farmers who are living here. When we jump out from the car, many kids began to look at us and to shout, thinking that Sandro (the Agritools videomaker) – who wares long hairs and some weird – was Jesus…funny moments! Probably for them it was the first meeting with a mzungu [white man, in swahili].
Gerry Boiyo is the Project Officer ICT at the Anglican Development Service,a local Ngo that is working in this community, filling a gap uncovered by the national and the regional institutions in the field of agriculture. Some of the activities promoted by ADS in last years are focusing on the use of ICTs. Video to share information, SMS to access the market prices through the mFarm platform, FrontlineSMS to collect information and ICT trainings for women. The introduction of these tools represented a revolution for the farmers of the Cheptais community and we went into the field to meet them and collect their testimony.
Once again, the relationship between genders and ICTs represents a point of reflection in the ICT4Ag sector and Cheptais had lot of things to say about it. Concerning the influence on women empowerment, ICTs are strong agents that can change the traditional equilibrium in a family, due to the fact that an empowered women is not well accepted in a traditional family contest. But thanks to the ADS trainings, step by step these ladies got the opportunity to reflect about their rights and they are now able to improve their production and incomes, being indipendent from their husbands.
Sowhat to do andhow to do it are the questions that are leading the ADS action in this Western Province village of Kenya. People from the region is finding in ICTs a kind of mirror which allows them to reflect their presence to the outside world and we know that this process, once started, it becomes unstoppable. It could be interesting to come back to Cheptais in few years and see how all these potatoes and onions grew up, thanks to the women work in agriculture.
Soon the videos with the women testimonies available in the Agritools platform.
Some weeks ago we visited Nandi Hills, in the Western Kenya. A shocking green was waiting for us over there: the tea plantations are dominating the whole landscapes and for many kilometers you’ll be surrounded by a geometrical carpet of differen green shades.
The reason of our presence there is related to WeFarm, a “pioneering social enterprise” which aims toenable peer to peer knowledge sharing about agriculture between different producers around the world.
WeFarm was about to launch their SMS platform in different localities of the Nandi Hills region when we reached there with our car, were twenty farmers were waiting for the training in the shadow of a zibibo tree.
We had the opportunity to speak with Camille, the local coordinator of the project. At the same time, we were sharing feelings with the six young graduated students that were coordinating the meeting between WeFarm and the farmers. We made several interviews to women who do family farming and tea plantations and we were able to start some interesting discussions with them about the expected results of ICTs in agriculture for the local problems affecting the sector, especially for women.
WeFarm is a SMS system that allow farmers to ask and answer questions about agriculture; the cost for a message is the price of a local message and they can ask info about any issue or information concerning agriculture.
More details will be available soon in our Agritools platform!
…just tonight, I take possession of this blog for personal purposes. Today is Elisabetta’s birthday: let me wish her all the best. Let me tell also: “happy Birthday Ely, this is your gift.But now it belong to us”.
This is your present. A small post in a blog, written from Kampala City because here is where we are now, the last stop for the Agritools project – of course waiting for the next one. This gift is sharing the same raw materials that brought you here. A deep deal with things around, passion and strength through everything. The cryptic need to tell it all. Our daily life, here, is crossed by small fights and big discussions between us, is a war of language and perceptions. We converted ourselves in that field of meanings that we wish to catch, observe, analyze, and that is now catching, observing, analyzing us.
I followed you in this project because I felt there must be something deep, related with the words of “innovation”, “Africa” and “agriculture”. The roots and the future of the human being, but also a natural meeting point for all those forces which are pushing up and pulling down our contemporary experience as human beings. The idea of “development”, a continent left behind, some centuries of colonizations which are still existing in our heads, the relationship with “la terra”, which in Italian means both “earth” and “land”. But also the fascinating attraction of technologies, their dark power through our minds, the huge concept of “change”, which can take any direction, and all of them at the same time.
We got the opportunity to travel through all this in the best way. With a strong independence of action and feeling, a condition which at the same time is a big challenge: the responsibility of being here to understand, and to give back our outcomes and results. I admire the way you’re facing this big challenge. I admire you when I switch off the camera and you are just going to start your passionate discussion with our counterparts. I dream that your insight – agriculture can really become a new, cool opportunity for millions of young people and not only in Africa – will be stronger than a certain way of though that for too long has characterized the action of some old NGOs.
So this is your gift, and it belong to us. Is a opportunity to tell you “thanks for this”. I’m doing it through ICTs, like we are getting used to. So from tomorrow we can start to fight again, deeply involved in a task which is bigger than us, a task which is your present to us.
Our main trip in Kenya is directed to the Western part of the country. Dusty roads and different kinds of green vegetations were the “leit-motiv” outside the window of Bundi’s car (our anthropologist friend/assistant). As the majority of African economies, Kenya is mainly fed by its agriculture. The diversity in terms of climatic zones, water availability and altitudes makes of Kenya a huge garden.
The first stop is Kakamega. The county is characterized by a strong agricultural soul and mostly women are working on it – while men and young go to the cities, looking for different kind of jobs. For these farmers, a constant support is provided by Kakamega Rural Development Programme (KARDEP), a local organization based in Kakamega town which is trying to generate a network of smallholder farmers into the region. KARDEP is supported by Biovision, a not-for-profit Trust established under the Kenyan law in 2009 by the Biovision Foundation for ecological development of Switzerland and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).
KARDEP is leading, in partnership with Safaricom, a system which allows farmers to save money through their mobile phone by using the most popular e-banking kenyan service, M-pesa.
This tool is particularly useful because it gives the possibility to save daily small amounts of their incomes. Step by step these farmers are able to save more and even get a loan without using a bank. Most of the users of this tool are women who improve their poultry through this project.
The main ethnic group of this region are the Luhya and their main activity is poultry: the women are the economy drivers of the family farming over here.
Not just mobile phones. KARDEP runs others projects that are part of the same programme: a rural radio, a newspaper and a InfoNet, a resource of scientifically and practically sound information for strengthening sustainable development of farmers and rural communities in Africa by allowing them to access, use and share information developed in the 4-H (Plant, Human, Animal and Environmental
It seems that “Kenya is the place to be”, especially if you’re looking for some connection and people interested in innovative ways to think the agricultural sector.
Two days ago we gave the first presentation of Agritools project at the Italian Cultural Institute of Nairobi. Our team was invited there, to show the initiative in a public presentation. We found out a strong interest on the topic of ICTs in the primary sector, and we got in touch with others organizations
and students working on it.
We had the first occasion to get feedbacks and point of views from the public, who encouraged us to work strongly and to deepener certain problematic and issues we are facing on the field, relating different levels of the rural development.
Kenya meant also the beginning of a collaboration with Kenneth Bundi, a graduated anthropologist from the University of Nairobi and lecturer. We travelled with him to the fields and his contribution was prominent in terms of research methodologies and approaches.
Agritools wants to be, and it is actually becoming, something more a journalist research: our wish is moving toward a deep investigation over this topic.
We finally left Nairobi yesterday morning, direction Uganda. In our luggage, we got already 246 GB of video materials, hundreds of photos, some wonderful dress and food that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Unsustainable agricultural practices and population pressures are constraining land and water resources around the world, compromising key agricultural systems. Less than half of the worlds land is stable or improving in quality; a third is degraded to some degree and a quarter is highly degraded.
While input-intensive, mechanized agriculture has allowedagricultural production to grow between 2.5 and 3 times over the last 50 years while expanding cultivated land area by only 12 percent, cultivated land area per person is declining with population growth and is not equitably distributed. Cultivated land is both scarcer and less suitable for agriculture in low-income countries than in high-income countries, and lack of access to land and water resources is strongly associated with poverty.
Among the risks to agriculture are floods and sea-level rise, water scarcity, pollution, and desertification and drought. Climate change, socioeconomic changes, and competition with other sectors for land and water resources stand to further constrain food production.
We spent a week visiting three projects in three counties of the Western Kenya: Kakamega, Bungoma and Nandi.
Rural radio, web information platform, e-banking for the unbanked, SMS for sharing information and help the farmer to sell their products. Mostly, we met women who work in family farming, dedicating their life to plant vegetable and breed the cattle and trying to create self-help groups and cooperatives to help each other to sustain the families and the school fees for the children.
Some days ago we were visiting the reality ofSooretul, a senegalese e-commerce platform created by two young tech women, with the aim of helping senegalese women who work in the transformation of agricultural local products by giving them an online space to sell and promote their products.
As the majority of places in the world, also in Senegal the access to the main networks of food is not easy for small producers. For this reason, Awa Caba and her colleagues created this online platform for e-commerce.
Following Awa Caba, we visited two different group of producers (Marie and Nafy), both placed in the suburbs of Dakar. In those realities, women are producing cous-cous, juice of fruits of mango, bissap, and other natural products which are largely used in the Senegalese daily life.
During our meetings, we found out the importance brought by a solid group of producers in the economy of these families, where agricultural sector is not limited to the fields, but it brings his influence in the urban life, creating job opportunities for transformers and bringing natural food for a metropolitan population which is increasing its needs.
After Sooretul, we left Senegal and the Western Africa (for the moment): next destination will be Kenya, where other projects are waiting for us!
The founder of Daral Techologies, Amadou Sow, got his idea in 2005, after following a basic course in informatics, offered by the Dutch cooperation. Amadou Sow belongs to a traditional family of farmers and his main wish was to help his father and brothers.
Soon he understood that the problems in the regional agriculture were strongly related with the lack of general statistics in the livestock sector. Who owns the animals? What kind of animal? In which area of the country? The digital world could offer an answer to these questions.
Here Amadow with the Agritools team in Passy!
The first step of the Daaral project is the identification of the breeder through a software digitized system. The registration follows the assignment of an identification code to be associated to the animals, in order to be immediately recognizable in case of loss or theft. One other feature is the “mediateque”, made available by the project with the aim of preventing epidemics cattle and disseminate preventive actions in rural areas in partnership with the Ministry of livestock.
Soon the videos and history of Daral project online!
After many hours and different local means of transports, we arrived in Passy, a village in the Fatick region. Here we spent the morning in a Daraal, a tipical senegalese animal market that groups every saturday the breeders from the nearby villages.
Here you can come to sell or buy ships, muttons, horses or chickens but, beside the market function, the Daraal represents a place of debat and exchange of information about the problems affecting the breeding sector in this zone.
We will tell you soon about the Daral Technologies project that work in that Daaral…Stay tuned!
We will be visiting “Daral technologies”, an initiative that uses mobile tecnology and video to help the general problems of local breeders like the rusting and the lack of a statistics for the breeding sector.
In November 2014 our team spent two days in Wageningen, a small town in Netherlands where is based the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU) that is engaged in the food and nutritional security, increasing prosperity and encouraging sound natural resource management.
Why did we choose to visit CTA?
CTA is one of the pioneer in the ICT for agriculture sector and is particularly involved in promoting activities in the ACP countries as web 2.0 trainings, Hackatons for agriculture, research support and technical assistance.
We tried to collect the expert point of views on the challenges and opportunities that the ICT use can bring to the primary sector, speaking about how the web innovations are helping the rural development with some case studies and exaples of CTA initiatives.
Let’s meet the experts!
Ken Lohento, ICT4D Programme Coordinator at CTA, told us about the youth involvement in ICT and agriculture and what the organisation is doing to boost the sector. Some initiative samples where he is involved are the ARDYIS Project, theAgriHack Talent Programme and the YoBloCo Awards, a youth in agriculture blog competition.
Benjamin Addom, Programme Coordinator, is one of the organisers of the ict4ag conference (held in Kigali in 2013) and the fin4ag conference (held in Nairobi in 2014) and told us how this kind of initiatives are influencing the civil society and government involvement in the ICT4AG sector. The videos will be soon available in the Agritools platform, stay tuned!
Agritools is a research exploratory project that aims to understand the real effects of the use of ICTs (Innovation and Communication Technologies) in the field of agriculture, fisheries and livestock in Africa. We are travelling in Europe and Africa and we will launch soon a web series where we will try to discover some innovative ICT African projects in the field of agriculture. Our main goal is to investigate the impact resulting from this digital revolution on the lives of locals and on their relationship with the land, food and traditions.
Follow our journalism research trips, soon the website online!