In 2016, Kenyan Computer Scientist based in South Africa developed an app and website targeting farmers with one objective; to warn them about looming drought.
The app and website known as ITIKI (Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge) were indeed well received and had over 15,000 users (farmers) in Kenya, Mozambique, and South Africa with her goal being to reach over hundreds of thousands more.
In a detailed interview with CNN, Muthoni Masinde revealed how the app came to be and her future plans for this entire project.
According to Muthoni, this platform was inspired by her observation that there is a lack of preparedness for drought situations, especially in African countries.
“We do not prepare for [drought],” she said. “It’s like we just wake up and discover that people in rural Kenya are starving, that people on one side of the country have no rain,” she noted
For her, most of the observations she made contribute a great deal and even guided her while creating the ITIKI platform. The app for instance is combining weather station data with the traditional knowledge of African farmers to predict droughts which she learnt from her Kenyan roots.
“I grew up in a [Kenyan] village and I noticed that most farmers do not have any form of science to tell [them] when to plant,
They watch insects, they watch the behavior of animals and then they make a decision, ‘I think it’ll rain in two weeks’ time.'” she stated
Through the app or via SMS her platform sends notifications and drought forecasts to farmers.
With an understanding of the adverse economic impact of drought, Masinde believes that such inventions and solutions like those offered on her platform can come in handy in GDP growth in African countries.
“Investments in climate adaptation solutions, especially targeting small scale farmers, would lead to GDP growth [in Africa],” said Masinde.
One of the features that possibly attracts farmers from different parts of Africa to the ITIKI platform is the fact that they can subscribe to the service for just a few cents, and receive regular updates in their local language.
Apart from her project being beneficial to farmers, it has equally provided employment to young people in farming communities who play a big role in running the app and providing content for the same.
According to Masinde who is currently a professor at the Central University of Technology Free State, in South Africa, farmers’ crop yields have increased by an average of 11% since they started using the app.
Some of the recorded achievements through her platform is that her platform ITIKI received $750,000 (81M Kenyan Shillings) in funding from the US and South African governments, which will be used to scale up operations.
By the end of this year, Masinde hopes to have signed up over 100,000 farmers to the platform.