Technology has become a great enabler across different sectors. In the field of food and agriculture, technologies like mobile sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence are increasing the efficiency of food production and improving smallholders’ access to information, formal markets and finance. However, the current enthusiasm for agricultural digitization has caused an influx of “full house” solution based mobile apps, which are overwhelming for smallholders due to their complex user interfaces, this does not work for users with lower e-literacy and digital skills. A better approach is to provide the users with multiple single use applications that are easier to use and specific to one aspect of their activities. This however, normally leads to a splintered experience for the farmer since they cannot get a consolidated view of their enterprise.
The unintended consequence of these two scenarios is seen in the increase of ‘digital lagging’ by emerging economies and rural areas. This is exacerbated further by socio-economic barriers such as; poor network connectivity, weak regulatory frameworks and high data costs.
While most of these challenges are beyond our control, our digital team has identified an opportunity to deliver the consolidated insights of several specialist apps into one common app.They have decided to capitalize on a 3rd party app that has proven to be a farmer favorite in terms of data consumption, scale, connectivity and frequency of usage, WhatsApp. Despite the fact that a majority of our farmers already use it for social purposes, one does not need to have a smartphone to use the app, there are now “smart feature phones” that are easily accessible, affordable to buy and maintain and require less digital knowledge.
We have created a virtual assistant (ChatBot) called WADI. Ultimately WADI serves as a nexus between farmer and extension officer. The virtual assistant enables the two to interact with and access information from multiple sources (satellites, weather services, soil testing, and logistics) with ease. The services and offering on WADI have considered real life challenges that farmers often find themselves facing.
With wadi, one can access the:
- The farmer’s location
- VunoGo, a micro logistics solution that delivers farmer’s harvests to the market.
- Soil Tests
- A detailed 7 day weather forecast
- Zwardy, a rewards platform that seeks to change farmer behavior by rewarding them for good practices. The platform allows farmers to score points for good practices and once they scored a certain amount of points, they can retrieve rewards like airtime, farming tools spade, gumboots, solar cellphone charger, seeds or even access to soil testing or VunoGo services. Through Wadi, a farmer can keep track of their points and claim their reward. All the farmer has to do is enter number 5 and their QR Code and WADI will respond with the updated points and what rewards they can claim.
One of the things WADI is ideal for is delivering training content to farmers. This training is in the form of short video clips on varied crop based Good Agricultural Practices such as soil preparation, planting, irrigation, pesticide application and harvesting. All the farmer has to do is enter number 6 and their QR Code and WADI will respond with a series of training topics under their programme. With WADI, farmers need not be trained for on-boarding as farmers are already familiar with WHATSAPP and all they would need to do is to communicate with WADI as they would any of their contacts on WhatsApp.