The COVID 19 pandemic has made more clear than ever the need for and role of digital technologies to strengthen and scale innovations to assist smallholders farmers and other value chain actors. At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, movement restrictions and the cycles of lockdowns in different countries threatened to slow down progress among farmers and other partners. Into this void, new digital technologies and tools promoted by the International Potato Center (CIP) and its partners are transforming agricultural extension and markets for sweetpotato and potato agri-food systems by ensuring the timely provision of technical information to farmers, extension staff, markets and vulnerable communities.
In Kenya, CIP partnered with the private company Arifu to digitize existing good agricultural practices (GAPs) for sweetpotato, enabling farmers to access this information through an interactive platform. Collaborating since 2020 under the FCDO-funded “Development and Delivery of Biofortified Crops at Scale” (DDBIO) project, CIP and Arifu have connected 15,000 farmers with free digital trainings available in two languages (English and Kiswahili).
Given that smartphone use is still low among smallholder farmers, CIP is using SMS technology over basic cell phones to distribute this information, while Arifu promotes data on COVID 19 related to health, finances, education and stress management. The initial success of this project has encouraged GIZ to offer its support to help CIP and Arifu reach another 30,000 sweetpotato farmers in the coming year.
CIP is also partnering with the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) to upgrade an existing digital platform – Viazi Soko – that provides advisory and extension service outreach for potato farmers. Viazi Soko was launched in 2017 to create a virtual hub for farmers to access quality planting materials, markets and other advisory services, such as weather forecasts. The upgrade will allow farmers to access the platform on three protocols (USSD, web-based, and Android). Today, the platform has 100,000 registered users, 80% of whom are potato farmers in Kenya..
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