When essential farming skills are just SMS away



When important farming expertise are simply SMS away


Messaging has change into some of the fashionable strategies of communication, whether or not it’s by means of textual content messages or messaging apps.

However think about texting, getting data and suggestions out of your cellphone with out subscribing to web or utilizing airtime.

With a platform often called Arifu, farmers and rural entrepreneurs from Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Uganda are studying about funds and agronomy by texting an interactive Chatbot.

A chatbot is a pc program that simulates human dialog by means of voice instructions or textual content chats or each.

The chatbot responds to plain questions instantly, at any time of the day. If a learner must ask a query in the course of the evening, a chatbot can reply them inside seconds.


Chatbots have been utilized by firms comparable to Starbucks the place clients can order for a drink by way of messaging or voice, one can request a trip from Lyft by way of chat and you may get every kind of make-up tutorials should you chat to Sephora on Kik messenger.

This has improved the effectivity of companies internationally by means of streamlining communication with customers.

In Africa, nevertheless, the know-how is remodeling training, farming, and rural entrepreneurship by making it simple for organisations to cross information and expertise to lots by means of primary telephones.

One person, Janet Kanyua, is a 45-year-old mom and farmer who retains dairy cows, rears hen, and grows beans and maize in Imenti Central, Meru.

She began the small scale farming actions after ending her secondary training.

As with most Kenya’s rural small-scale farmers, she typically struggled to maintain development as a result of obstacles comparable to restricted entry to finance to buy high quality farming inputs, restricted entry to information on good agricultural practices, and applicable applied sciences.

Then she found Arifu.

“I noticed a TV commercial a couple of method the place I might study farming utilizing my primary cellphone by texting a query and I might get a reply. I dialed the quantity. I’ve educated with them for about three years. I study cows and rearing Kienyeji hen,” she stated.

She began studying about animal husbandry and later superior to crop farming and funds.

Now Janet has turned her dairy farming right into a enterprise.

She has additionally purchased a chaff cutter machine to cut cow feed and now retains a superior cow breed which has elevated milk manufacturing substantively and sustainably, growing her family revenue.

“Earlier I didn’t learn about cross-breeding and that there’s a particular fertiliser for maize and one for cereals. I used to be simply shopping for DAP and mixing it with soil. I used to do blended farming however on my cellphone, I’ve discovered that it isn’t the very best. I by no means used to make some huge cash,” she stated.

In line with Craig Heintzman, the co-founder and CEO of Arifu, many farm households and small scale rural entrepreneurs lack entry to the credible data and instruments they should handle and enhance their earnings.

However there’s a strategy to attain them: In Kenya particularly, 62 % of the nation’s inhabitants of 49 million have entry to cellphones. The draw back is thousands and thousands are with out the web nor smartphones and therefore can’t entry the Net or social media to study new expertise.

That is the place Arifu is available in.

In 2015, Canadian Nationwide and Enterprise Graduate Heintzman launched a platform the place folks entry free academic content material from useful sources and credible organisations over any cell phone.

Mr Heintzman and his staff developed a easy SMS chatbot accessible by any cellphone available on the market by way of SMS, WhatsApp, and Fb Messenger.

“For those who create an internet site you’ll nonetheless not attain them as they don’t have a pc or a smartphone. Arifu is participating, entertaining, and free so folks can afford to make use of it,” he stated.

The corporate is headquartered in Nairobi.

In an interview with Digital Enterprise, Mr Heintzman stated the platform is purposely constructed to show folks tips on how to clear up their issues and study on matters comparable to monetary literacy and farming methods comparable to which cow breed fits their area and tips on how to attain greater markets.

Arifu has labored with banks, cellular operators, agribusinesses, Microfinance Establishments (MFIs), and NGOs comparable to Syngenta, Mobigrow Kenya Business financial institution (KCB), Fairness Financial institution, Digi Farm by Safaricom, Vodacom, CGAP, TechnoServe, and the Kenyan authorities to unfold expertise coaching and product data to the underserved section of the inhabitants.

He stated the organisations pay for the platform subscriptions and academic content material creation.

The content material is then delivered to the Arifu chatbox in order that it’s free for many who need to study expertise and data.

Content material will be in any language that may be delivered by means of a cell phone. In Kenya, Kiswahili and English are the languages largely used on the platform.

“These organisations have an curiosity in educating the inhabitants on tips on how to develop their enterprise however they’re discovering that to do this face-to-face may be very costly and laborious to scale up. Some populations are additionally laborious to succeed in,” he stated.

5 years into the market, the enterprise is already having encouraging outcomes

The platform has helped 1.four million folks largely farmers and small companies within the rural areas study on digital monetary companies, commercialization, tips on how to save, mortgage services, and agronomy.

In line with a examine performed on 300 farmers with Mobigrow Kenya Business financial institution (KCB), Arifu studies that 81 % of farmers reported improved crop manufacturing, and 73 % of farmers reported a rise in revenue.

“Amongst that group, 85 % stated the rationale was because of the elevated quantity of crops offered. For 80 % of the farmers, their expertise utilizing Arifu was the primary time they’ve been capable of entry one of these data (agronomy and monetary literacy),” stated Mr. Heintzman.

The corporate was not too long ago acknowledged throughout the Disruptive Agricultural Know-how (DAT) Problem and Convention 2019 and has received many awards within the know-how area.

What has shocked him? I ask.

“By determining the behavioral science and the psychology of studying for an interactive chat we had been capable of unlock lots of studying potential by means of primary interplay on interactive SMS.”

“We discovered that if we ship tales about folks and their challenges and the way they discovered expertise and succeeded by means of interactive textual content messaging we had been capable of see some actually sturdy outcomes and interactions,” he stated.

Within the subsequent 5 years, Mr Heintzman hopes to get 10 million learners on the platform and be capable of scale throughout Africa and likewise different markets in Asia, Latin America, and the Center East.


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