Young entrepreneurs are already turning the wheels of the agricultural revolution. They are driving the paradigm shift in facilitating access and communication of agricultural information and knowledge.
They are not just creating a buzz in ICT for Agriculture (ICT4Ag), but fervently transforming the practice of agriculture with innovative ICT solutions such as web and mobile applications. With increasing interest and support from various stakeholders in empowering these young ICT4Ag entrepreneurs, the digitisation of agriculture is beating odds, responding positively to concerns such as sustainability, nature and quality of information provided and engagement of youth and women.
While the beginning of these initiatives was mainly inclined to the provision of information to support farmers at the production stage, the overwhelming support has so far seen the rebirth of approaches and innovations crossing the borders of provision of information for production only to as far as supporting financial transactions. Behind this success story is a great model: the AgriHack Championship Initiative.
Conceptualised by CTA in 2013, the AgriHack Championship, a model hackathon with a difference has been a learning and entrepreneurial exercise, bringing together young people interested in developing ICT solutions for agriculture. The hackathon and its accompanying activities were spread over the space of a year, with preparation and follow-up activities to support participants.
Some activities included national level competitions, which led to the selection of finalists. The finals were held during CTA’s 2013 ICT4Ag Conference. A clear roadmap was used to strengthen the AgriHack model to produce concrete results with a real impact for young entrepreneurs and small-scale producers. From mentorship, to discussions and training, a range of stakeholders had put efforts together. At this event, a range of solutions hacked by young entrepreneurs emerged, and the regional winning innovations were Ensibuuko, AgriVAS and Agrinfo. Some winning innovations have thrived to be model, youth-led enterprises, providing some of the most promising ICT solutions in agriculture.
Taking part in the CTA Agrihack Championship proved to be an opportunity for David Opio and Gerald Otim to develop the Ensibuuko app and galvanise contacts with Kiva, an online crowd funding platform to which David and his team had turned for capital. When Ensibuuko was named winner of the regional finals, the award brought the team valuable visibility and credibility.
A pilot phase signed with Kiva has enabled Ensibuuko to provide finance to 42 rural smallholder producers, mainly model rural farmers who commit to mentoring other farmers in the community. So far, the six-strong Ensibuuko team has raised more than US$15,000 (€10,800) and is well on its way to its immediate target of raising another $5,000 (€3,600). Ensibuuko is a mobile and web application that integrates automated SMS and mobile money services to enable Saving and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOSs) to handle savings and make loans to smallholder farmers.
A Kenyan ICT4Ag application showcased at the regional finals of the CTA Agrihack Championship has proved a winning idea, with commercial potential. Farmdrive, a platform that connects farmers and lenders, has attracted the interest of a Japanese investor, who was present at the hackathon, held in November 2013. He approached the Farmdrive team at the event and indicated he had found the idea interesting. Since then, he has been working with the team to perfect the App, so as to explore the feasibility of applying the same idea in Japan.
The ICT4Ag Agrihack Championship was not an end in itself, rather it was the ignition of successful innovations that would see the paradigm shift in access and communication of agricultural information and knowledge amplified, proving the initial Agrihack concept a success.
This initiative is on the right track to responding to the timely call to a rethink in ICT4Ag applications. It also tackles among others, issues such as sustainability, quality of information, access and usability by youth and women, duplication of applications, helping farmers beyond the production stage, supporting financial transactions, and tracking farmer’s data.
Following the finals of the Agrihack Championship in November 2013, the winners of the competition were incubated for 6 months by different hubs to fine-tune their products. In order to discuss the results of the hackathon and its follow-up, a learning and follow-up workshop is planned to take place on 11 – 12 July 2014 (upon invitation only) in Nairobi, Kenya.
During the Fin4Ag Conference, best applications developed by the young entrepreneurs will be showcased. Stay tuned and follow us on twitter with Hashtag #Fin4Ag14 for updates!
Blogpost by Simon Wandila, Social Reporter for the Fin4Ag Conference.