By Rose Funja, Unusual Solutions Finalist
For more than a decade, the Agriculture Non-State Actors Forum (ANSAF) brings together non-state actors and government and coordinates critical debates on local, national, and continental issues. ANSAF’s vision is a Tanzanian society free of poverty where sound agricultural policies and best practices contribute to the transformation of the country’s economy. As a member-led advocacy platform of national and international NGOs, farmers’ umbrella groups, and companies with an interest in the development of the agricultural sector in Tanzania, ANSAF intends to reach over 12 million people living in poverty.
Recently, JembeKilimo+(JK+) conducted a successful design thinking session with farmers at an Annual Learning Event (ALE) of ANSAF. JK+ is a farm data platform solution that profiles farms and farmers and offers smallholder farmers a decision support system that allows them to optimize yield. The platform provides basic mobile communication between the farmers and the agriculture extension officers for precise agriculture practices. The ALE meeting theme was on climate change, which is the perfect introduction to precision farming and the use of remote sensing for better decisionmaking.
The farmers expressed the challenges they face, from pests like the fall armyworm, changes in weather patterns, and the lack of available new technologies to address currently low productivity levels. So the JK+ team performed two exercises: one via an exhibition where the team could showcase their platform to stakeholders, engage in a Q&A to understand the stakeholders’ needs, and demonstrate how the platform can respond to those needs. For the second exercise, the JK+ team gave a presentation and participated in a panel to educate the attendees.
Overall, though, the JK+ team wanted to gather feedback from the stakeholders. This meeting collected over 200 participants in agriculture from all over Tanzania, and it was a perfect opportunity for us to showcase our minimum viable product (MVP) and get feedback. We engaged with more than a dozen stakeholders from development partners, leaders of farmers associations, private agribusiness on crop farming, fisheries, and animal keeping. Initially, they came to see the drone hardware, which some had seen before, but for others, it was their first opportunity to see and touch. The JK+ team then offered demonstrations to those interested in the technology.
Nearly half of the stakeholders had questions that could be answered by the data collected and analyzed. For example, one development partner who has been supporting rice farmers wanted to understand better where the rice farmers are and how much of their farming activities they cover. Another, a large-scale private farmer, having issues with the local district authority where he rents his cultivation field. The district authority is not considering him for a rent extension despite investments that he’s made in making the land more fertile. However, if the JK+ platform could prove increased productivity on the land over time through soil mapping, that could demonstrate the value of his efforts to the district authority in their considerations.
The JK+ team has been fortunate to grace several platforms, including the launch at the World Bank’s “Tanzania Economic Update” and the welcome to UN Women exhibition booth at “Data Tamasha,” the 2020 Agriculture annual policy forum. The JK+ team is grateful to Unusual Solutions and its partners, who supported this bloom to a minimum viable product. As a team, bring experience, skills, and, most importantly, a passion for scaling JembeKilimo+ by working on the ground to ensure that we meet the stakeholders’ needs and develop a business opportunity for the solutions that we offer.