Connecting small-scale farmers worldwide so they can crowdsource knowledge, spread innovation and solve problems, even without the internet.

Wefarm - the world’s largest farmer to farmer network - connects farmers by SMS and online to information they need to prosper together.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Wefarm

Year founded

2015

Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $500k - $1m

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • More than 100,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Headquarters location: City

London

Location(s) of impact

Kenya: (counties as farmers not based in cities) Nakuru, Kakamega, Meru + many more
Uganda: (same as above) Bugweri, Bukooli, Bunya + many more

Website

https://wefarm.org/

Facebook URL

https://www.facebook.com/WefarmGlobal/

Twitter URL

https://twitter.com/we_farm

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

There are 500 million small-scale farms worldwide, employing over 2 billion people.

These farmers live in isolated rural areas often without access to the internet. They are cut off from vital agricultural advice and new ideas to innovate in the face of challenges like climate change and poverty.

This matters to us all, because these farmers produce 70% of the world’s food. Yet nearly half is lost on the ground due to problems which are solvable with existing, yet often inaccessible, knowledge.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Wefarm is the world’s largest farmer to farmer digital network, available over SMS and online. Our mission is to connect every farmer - as we believe farmers know best how to help each other.

Victor is a Kenyan tea farmer. His farm is being attacked by a pest he has never seen before. So he sends Wefarm a free SMS asking for advice. Our machine learning technology shares Victor’s question with Wefarmers best equipped to help.

Doris in Uganda has been dealing with this pest for 20 years. Within 15 minutes, she shares her valuable knowledge with Victor. He now has the information to fight this pest without leaving his farm, spending money or going online.

We have already registered over 500,000 farmers who use Wefarm A LOT (see Impact)! And while the age of farmers worldwide is rising, 65% of our users are under 35.

We are now building a sustainable commercial ecosystem around our highly trusted network that will generate revenue for Wefarm AND add value for farmers.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Our exponential growth in this offline market is exceptional. It took 5 months to reach our first 3,000 users in 2015 and our network is now growing by 3,000 farmers a day. Last month we registered nearly 100k farmers.

But what really gets us really excited is the fact that farmers use Wefarm a LOT - >40% actively contribute content each month (compared to Twitter’s 17%) with 90% retention after 30 days (compared to WhatsApp’s 77%).

And it WORKS. Wefarm has just answered our 1 millionth question and 70% of farmers surveyed report an increase in income due to information from Wefarm. Farmers tell us Wefarm has helped them produce higher quality products, increase yields, gain insight into market pricing, tackle effects of climate change, diversify agricultural interests and much more.

Take Michael from Kenya, whose tea was affected by a disease. The advice he received from Wefarmers saved his farm AND nearly doubled his tea yield, helping to increase his family’s prosperity.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Wefarm was one of the 1st charity origin projects to secure VC investment (£1.4m from LocalGlobe & Accelerated Digital Ventures) and we are finalising terms for our next investment round (confidential).

Annual budget now - Grants: 20%, Earned income: 10%, Other (investment): 70%.
In 5 years - Grants: 10%, Earned income: 90%.

Having created an engaged, trusted, scalable network, we are piloting 3 revenue generating products:
1) Welink: connecting farmers with products (e.g. seeds) and services (e.g. loans) - market worth $400bn annually.
2) Webuy: marketplace for Wefarmers to buy/ sell produce - ‘informal’ trade in Africa alone worth billions.
3) Insights: combine our unique data with complex algorithms to provide vital insight and alerts for the trillion $ commodities market.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Wefarm is sustainable and scalable to millions of farmers globally. We have many more connected farmers than any of our competitors and we are reaching young people particularly effectively (65% of users are under 35).

Info is individually tailored and sourced from farmers unlike competitors like iShamba or Digifarm whose info is ‘top down’.

Our unique, real-time data provides insight into farmer needs/ challenges (alternative is costly, time consuming surveys from companies like Esoko).

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

It is widely accepted that access to quality information and ideas for isolated, offline communities in developing countries would radically increase prosperity. Yet, most current approaches are ‘top down’ with people simply being told what to do by ‘experts’.

Wefarm was inspired by the 7 years founder Kenny Ewan spent working with farmers in Peru. He saw first-hand the unique ways that farmers solved their daily challenges. ne farmer he met whose chicks were trampling each other at feeding time meant many chicks were dying. This farmer designed a chicken feeder using farm containers which saved his brood. Kenny was struck by the fact that farmers near and far probably faced the same problems, but were unlikely to learn about such innovations.

Driven by the motivation to challenge the status quo and to empower farmers worldwide to share knowledge like this, Kenny founded Wefarm.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Henri@Nestlé

Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

a) Our beneficiaries use Wefarm to access and share vital information about farming. Their questions can relate to any topic, any type of crop or livestock and can currently be asked in English, Swahili, Lugandan and Runyakole (with more to come). For example:
Pests/ diseases: ‘Some of my tea plantation is turning yellowish and start drying up, why?’
Markets: ‘What is a good price for maize?’
Increasing yield: ‘Which type of maize produces [the] highest yield?’

Our advanced machine learning algorithms analyse the content of each question and identify Wefarmers best placed to help. Within hours after a farmer asks a question, they receive 2-3 tailored responses without having to leave their farm, spend any money or go online.

Companies like Esoko, iCow, Digifarm or iShamba provide ‘top down’ info to farmers by SMS, which is not tailored to a farmer’s specific circumstances and are not globally scalable or sustainable.

By analysing the millions of farmer interactions on Wefarm, we also provide organisations with unique insight into what is happening on the ground and an honest assessment of what farmers need. Our partners like Unilever or Heifer use this insight to tailor support for farmers and make key decisions about their supply chains.

b) Uganda and Kenya, launching in Tanzania in 2018.
c & d) Users can ask questions 24/7.
e) Farmers. Wefarm is a service for farmers, created by farmers as we believe no-one else knows more about farming, than farmers.

Focus area

  • Rural Development

We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.

Wefarm empowers farmers to work together to improve their own prosperity so they can invest in their farms and in their family's health and education. 90% of farmers surveyed would recommend Wefarm to a peer. Farmers like Mercy (Kenya) who said: “Now I have Wefarm, I am earning more money” or Stephen (Uganda) who said “I am happy with Wefarm, it has improved my agricultural knowledge greatly, I wish more people will join and benefit like I do”.

All of our users are equal, especially those from under-represented groups like women (30% of our users are women) and young people (65% of our users are under 35). So Wefarm is holistic and equitable because it gives ALL farmers a voice and a tool to access information about ANYthing related to their farms. In particular, 1000s of questions each month that are answered by Wefarmers relate to:
a) better understanding markets - topics include market prices or location of local buyers;
b) solving problems jeopardizing farms and livelihoods - topics include pests, diseases and climate change;
c) improving water management - topics include: irrigation, floods, drought and water storage.

Take Rose in Uganda. She harvested 200kg of maize which she saved from a pest thanks to advice from Wefarm. She then asked Wefarm what she should charge for her maize so she received a fair price and was able to pay her children’s school fees. She is now teaching farming to single mothers in her village to help them improve nutrition & prosperity.

Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

Our network is the largest of its kind, farmers use Wefarm twice as much as people use Twitter and our user retention is better than WhatsApp. This places us in a unique position to develop commercial products for our users that already yield an income and have the potential to generate millions. Leading investors like LocalGlobe and grant makers like Google have supported our model.

Key stakeholders:
- Farmers, their families: Wefarm is a global community which empowers farmers with a tool to increase their own prosperity and build happier, healthier lives for their families.
- Organisations: we work with companies, governments and NGOs to provide Wefarm to farmers in their supply chains/ that they support and offer real-time insight into their needs and challenges.

The planet: Wefarm empowers farmers to share vital information and advice about how to mitigate the effects of climate change and adopt sustainable farming practices [17% of messages relate to this area].

How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?

Wefarm was designed from the start to be sustainable and profitable and is projected to break even by 2020. We already generate some earned income and are funded by grants and investment from leading EU and Silicon Valley investors.

We will secure further investment and grants over the next 3 years by continuing to demonstrate our ability to scale globally - see Spread Strategies and demonstrating our ability to generate significant revenue - see financial sustainability plan.

Our commercial products will equip farmers with yet more tools to improve prosperity AND generate revenue. By 2022, a Wefarmer's lifetime value will be £1.50, we will reach 50m farmers and generate £45m in revenue (£20m profit). Full financial model available.

How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?

1. Our model fundamentally challenges the traditional 'top down' approach adopted by many governments and NGOs. We are and will continue to work with current and new partners to champion the importance and value of peer to peer knowledge sharing.
2. Our unique farmer data enables us to share valuable insight into farmers' needs and challenges with companies, NGOs and governments. In doing so, we will help these organisations keep farmers at the very heart of their services and key decisions.
3. We will increase equality for women and young people through partnerships with agencies like UN Women and our own work such as through our Youth Ambassador programme (provides young people with paid work, skills training and new opportunities).

How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?

Your investment would enable us to scale up our social impact in 2018 by reaching 20% of small-scale farmers in East Africa and developing commercial products which directly benefit those farmers.

With your support we will launch Wefarm in Tanzania and further scale up our network across Kenya and Uganda. In particular, we will be able to deploy the full suite of marketing and engagement tools that we have already developed on a major scale.

We will focus on developing the commercial products farmers need to improve their prosperity. Particularly Welink (working title), which will connect farmers with products (like seeds or fertilizer) and services (like loans or insurance) they need to prosper, but currently struggle to access.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?

We know Wefarm is scalable because in year 1 we registered 50k users, in year 2, users more than doubled to 130k, and this year, users have quadrupled to over 500k. Wefarm is the biggest farmer to farmer network EVER, and with your support, we can take it to the next level by adding new languages, piloting in new countries/ continents and becoming financially sustainable.

In 2018, we will launch in Tanzania and maintain our current growth rate (12%) to reach 2m users. With requests to launch in new countries flooding in, we will launch across Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 and reach 5m users (8% growth). In 2020 we will start to pilot in Asia and reach 14m users (8% growth).

In the future, we will ALL depend on the billions of small-scale farmers worldwide EVEN MORE to feed our growing population. Wefarm will become increasingly vital to farmers and companies alike. Google is putting hot air balloons in the sky to achieve what we are doing by simply providing a service farmers want.

Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?

Wefarm has 23 staff (20 full/ 3 part-time) with diverse knowledge and experience in many areas including: strategic management & leadership, agriculture, data science, business development, technology development and marketing.

Highly experienced & qualified management team: Founder & CEO - Kenny Ewan, CTO - Adam Neilson, Head of Business - Amy Barthorpe and Head of Brand & Comms - Radha Ahlstrom-Vij.

Expert & highly experienced directors: Kenny Ewan, Claire Rhodes (CEO of Cafedirect Producers Foundation - NGO), Peter Burke (CEO of Conker Group - leading software company).

Currently recruiting: Head of Product and Head of Marketing (Uganda).
2018 recruits: Country Manager & Field staff (Tanzania), Sales Team, expansion of Tech & Data Science Teams and the Operations Team.

Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?

2017
One of Africa’s Most Innovative Companies - FastCompany
4YFN Disrupted by Mobile - Mobile World Congress
Hottest Tech for Good - EUROPAS Awards
HeHa Happiness Challenge
Supporting Gender & Diversity Award - GSMA
Index Design for Life Awards Finalist

Ideas from Europe Prize - EU Commission (2016)
Google Global Impact Challenge (2015)

Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?

We are legitimising the validity and value of farmer-sourced information and proving to the world that farmers know best about farming by...
1. Partnering with major NGOs like Heifer and global multinationals like Technoserve. Our partnership with Unilever has provided the company with valuable insight about farmers in their supply chain.
2. Acting as thought leaders and speaking at major technology and development conferences. Head of Field, Justus Buyarugaba spoke at UNICEF’s Tech Conference last month.
3. Working with local/ national governments and multilateral agencies like UN Women and the EU to champion the voice of farmers. In Kenya, we are working with county governments to reach more farmers and also sharing our data.

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018

  • Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018

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Photo of FOLO Farms

We FOLO Farms Malaysia would love to be part of what you are doing!

Photo of Sarah

FOLO Farms Malaysia is an incredible idea - please feel free to email me (sarah@wefarm.org) if you would like to talk more.

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