WeFarm

WeFarm: Access and share vital information, even without access to internet

London, United KingdomMultiple countries, Kenya
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

WeFarm is a pioneering peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform for the 500 million small-scale farmers around the world with no internet. Users can access and share vital information that can improve their lives... without leaving the farm, spending any money, or having access to internet

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if small-scale farmers worldwide, who grow 70% of the world’s food, could harness the power of crowd-sourced knowledge?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The majority of the world’s 500 million small-scale farmers live in remote areas without internet. They have no way of accessing information to improve their farms and lives, plant a new crop or start a new enterprise. This also matters to all of us… these same farmers grow 70% of the world’s food, and almost half (worth $33 billion every year) is lost on the ground, mostly due to simple, easily fixed issues

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

WeFarm is a unique peer-to-peer information sharing service that has already scaled to more than 32,000 farmers using the system in just a few months. 90% of smallholder farmers don’t have internet, but do have access to a basic mobile phone. WeFarm enables them to ask questions, and share ideas, about problems they are facing on the farm simply by sending a free SMS. Farmers receive multiple crowd-sourced answers to their questions from other farmers and experts around the world in minutes without leaving their farm or spending any money. Rather than parachuting in top-down advice, WeFarm utilizes farmers’ own experience - providing a globally scalable solution. WeFarm has already shared more than 3.7 million interactions through SMS.

Awards

2014 Google Impact Challenge - overall winner. 2015 MEFFYs Innovation in Technology winner. 2015 ‘Ideas for Europe’ – UK winner 2015 ‘Ideas for Europe’ – Winner chosen by European Commission in Luxembourg. 2015 Acumen+London PITCH 2015 – Winner
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

One day Kepha from Baringo in Kenya had a question about his chickens who had fallen sick. Kepha picked up his mobile phone and sent a text message (SMS) to WeFarm asking what he should do. Within minutes, he received an SMS back with advice from another farmer recommending which medicine he should use. This advice helped Kepha save 27 of the 52 chickens he owned. Kepha’s chickens are very important to him because they are his main source of income. His chickens allow him to earn a modest living and feed his family – saving 27 chickens, which otherwise would have died, is a big deal for him. In this way, accessing information for free without the internet can enable smallholders to save and improve their livelihoods.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

WeFarm achieves impact in ‘No Poverty’, ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Climate Action’. WeFarm has already helped 32,000 farmers to increase resilience and improve their livelihoods through: saving sick livestock; diversifying into new crops; starting micro-businesses; and preventing crop diseases. 94% of farmers said they would recommend WeFarm to a friend, and 70% said it had improved their livelihood. WeFarm empowers women with equal access to information. 30% of WeFarm ambassadors are women and female farmers using the system now have a platform to share their expertise, and gain confidence in seeing that their knowledge is valuable. By connecting millions of farmers to vital information without internet access over the next few years, WeFarm will improve millions of farmers’ livelihoods, build resilience and empower women. We aim to increase every farmers income by 50p per month.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In 10 years’ time WeFarm will have improved the livelihood of 100 million smallholder farmers through access to vital information on agriculture and enhanced resilience to climate change. In 2016 we will launch in Ethiopia, Cote D’Ivoire, Haiti, India and Colombia. WeFarm already provides an online platform too, so as people transition to smartphones they can continue to use the service. WeFarm is currently doubling in sixe every 5 weeks. In the next 5 years we will support every one of these farmers to increase their income by 50p per week – a big deal for people living on $1 a day
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

WeFarm is already generating revenue. Our business is based on 2 areas: lead generation and advertising for companies that want to market to smallholders (farmers often ask questions on where to source products); and unique data reports that help corporate businesses sourcing from farmers. WeFarm can map crop issues and trends months before they become supply chain issues for major companies.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are other services that offer agricultural advice via SMS in developing markets, including Esoko, iCow, iShamba, RML Global and M-Farm, however these services are nationally based, and only offer top-down agricultural advice from experts. WeFarm is the only peer-to-peer based model, meaning it is globally scalable - as our rapid growth from 0 to 32,000 users in just 7 months shows. Other services also charge farmers - for example, with iShamba each SMS to the call centre costs 5 KSH. WeFarm’s service is completely free to use and will remain that way in the future.
Team

Founding Story

WeFarm’s founder Kenny spent 7 years living in Peru working with indigenous communities, where he saw many farmers developing innovative, low-cost solutions to overcome challenges like climate change and new ways to improve their livelihoods. However, Kenny noticed that these innovations would not travel more than a few miles so he started to think about how he could create a crowd-sourced pool of information like Wikipedia. Soon after joining CPF Kenny combined this idea with the power of SMS, creating a peer-to-peer service where farmers could ask questions and receive answers from other farmers around the world in minutes.

Team

WeFarm has a team of 8 full-time members of staff with more than 20 years experience between them working with communities in the developing world. Current roles include CEO, Business Development Manager, International Manager, Comms and PR Manager, and 3 in-country staff in Kenya and Peru. Educational achievements include an MBA, MSc in Development, MA in Conflict Resolution, and MSc in International Marketing and Entrepreneurship. WeFarm has 6 board members including technology and data experts, a social impact investor, and charity CEO, and mentors from the big business and investment worlds. We aim to grow our team substantially in the next 18 months, including hiring more staff in Africa, Latin America and India. We also aim to hire a full time CTO and a data scientist in the UK.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Recommended by a mentor

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Gender Equality, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I was previously executive director of an NGO based in Peru, working with indigenous populations. I led the organisation from the begging to winning a National Geographic 'Best on Earth' award for our work with isolated communities. I was also part of the start-up team of the successful UK NGO 'Cafedirect Producers' Foundation'

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

WeFarm works closely with Cafedirect Producers’ Foundation, a UK independent charity that has a network of more than 280,000 smallholder farmers. In addition to this, WeFarm is part of the Telefonica accelerator Wayra. Mentors include James Lasbrey, Head of SMS, Telefónica, Alan Greenberg, former Director for Apple Education, Peter Burke, CEO of Conker Group (data management platform) and Annika Small, former CEO and chair of Nominet Trust (the UK's leading social technology funder). We are also working with a number of businesses that have supply chains in farming, and NGOs in countries where we operate to increase our user numbers and benefit everybody.

randomness