International Solidarity Foundation and its partners trained women farmers to utilize existing digital tools to enhance their livelihoods.
There are some integral reasons that inhibit women farmers’ livelihoods in Kenya’s Nyamira and Kisii counties. Low access to livelihood assets, poor linkages to markets and low access to relevant farming skills, technology and knowledge are among them.
As a solution, International Solidarity Foundation (ISF) and its partners NNWS and BWCBO experimented with training rural women farmers to utilize and adopt digital tools. The aim was to see if more of the rural women – with little or no education – could utilize the digital tools in their farming activities.
The experiment was conducted by ISF, NNWS and BWCBO.
First, International Solidarity Foundation and its partners first identified key areas of intervention and digital tools. The focus areas included access to market information, selling, training, weather forecasting and m-banking. The digital tools selected were Wefarm, ishamba, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Mpesa.
Next, the team designed and developed user manuals to guide the farmers on the usage of the tools. These user manuals compiled available content about the digital tools and presented the content in easy-to-understand formats.
In July 2021, 22 lead farmers were trained as peer advisers. They received training and afterward, they trained their peers to use the same tools. A total of 132 farmers were targeted. Some farmers had little ICT knowledge and others had none.
The results were impressive. 26 farmers who did not own smartphones, bought one. 45 farmers joined a key WhatsApp farming group for advisory and information whereas 40 did the same on Facebook. 5 women also sold their products via WhatsApp.
Despite the gains, the majority of the farmers who participated in the experiment struggled to learn and embrace the digital tools. This is because of the lack of better phones, lack of adequate and continuous data bundles and airtime and low literacy levels among other reasons.
The experiment was conducted in Nyamira county in the project areas where ISF’s two local livelihood partners (NNWS and BWCBO) are operating in.
The experiment holds potential for scaling by mainstreaming digitization in our programs.