Peer-to-peer (P2P) farming information platform WeFarm, which launched in Kenya in November last year after spinning out of an NGO, has hit 22,000 users, and is aiming to reach 50,000 by the end of the year.
Social enterprise WeFarm has developed a P2P knowledge sharing platform for small-scale farmers in rural communities, which allows farmers to ask questions via SMS shortcodes and receive answers from other registered users.
The platform is open to anyone, including experts and those wishing to do business with farmers, and is available in both English and Swahili. It is approaching 50,000 questions asked on the platform, with 60 per cent of its users active monthly.
WeFarm is planning on more than doubling its user base by the end of the year, and targeting more than 500,000 active farmers by the end of 2016.
“It is great that we now have more than 22,000 farmers all sharing information through WeFarm. I think that the rate at which WeFarm has grown and how much farmers are using the system shows that there is definitely a need for a service like this and a real gap in the market,” said WeFarm chief executive officer (CEO) Kenny Ewan.
As Disrupt Africa reported earlier this year, WeFarm is currently waiting for confirmation on a launch in Tanzania, while it is also planning launches in Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, India and Colombia next year.
The startup – which will monetise by selling SMS advertising to large agricultural clients – began life as a pilot project within the United Kingdom (UK)-based Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF) – but in the summer of last year won GBP500,000 (US$750,000) at the Google Impact challenge, which has been used to scale up the WeFarm platform and make it more robust.
Africa programme manager Teresa Nekesa previously told Disrupt Africa WeFarm had carved out a niche for itself as “an internet for those without internet”, with the SMS shortcode aspect of the platform tailored towards a market that predominantly uses feature phones.
“We realise that farmers have lots of knowledge but what is lacking is an opportunity to share this knowledge amongst themselves,” she said.
“It is not a top down thing, it is peer to peer. Basically farmers are crowdsourcing knowledge.”