One of the biggest problems facing smallholder farmers in Africa is lack of permanent access to production knowledge and experts. At any given time, a farmer may be managing anywhere upto 10 different crops as well as 3-4 species of livestock. To do this effectively, a farmer requires a vast amount of knowledge 24/7 and preferably an avenue where this knowledge can be retained for future reference. Sadly although the continent is home to a multitude of agricultural research organisation and institutions, there is very little trickle down of knowledge to the practitioners on the ground, the farmers themselves.
Another often ignored problem facing farmers is that of content and knowledge retention.
The most commonly used channel for agricultural dissemination on the continent is radio which unfortunately does not allow the user to choose the particular content of the day nor the ability to store it.
iCow content is aggregated from national agricultural research institutions and formatted to fit the iCow products. This process bridges the gap between the researchers and experts and the practitioners by bringing verified agricultural research to the farmer in a mode that he/she can understand and act upon.
The game changer in iCow is the use of SMS.
It was designed to use SMS for the purpose of retention. The first farmers using the platform began to document their messages in hard copy and in effect began to produce their own agricultural manuals from archived iCow content. We encourage all users to do the same today. Thus archived, the content is available 24/7!
Our data shows that farmers who have been on the iCow platform for a minimum of 3 months receiving best dairy practice information begin to see tangible milk gains of 2-3 litres per animal and visibly improved livestock health. Mashauri Cow farmers who stay on the platform for longer periods have cited reduced veterinary costs, reduced diseases, reduced calf mortality and healthier calves. Poultry farmers too have increased bird numbers as well as eggs and have reduced chick and bird mortality considerably. Almost all farmers who have used the platform say they have increased their agricultural knowledge.