The gaipa solution (gaipa App) is aiming to reduce barriers for small-scale farmers especially in developing countries and other users interested in farming topics when accessing Internet based services. We have realized for many challenges farmers face solutions do exist. This holds true for storage (estimated 20% of cereals are lost in developing countries, mostly during post-harvest handling), simple processing and preservation, as we all as sustainable farming practices or irrigation methods.
With an increasing reach of cellular networks the Internet becomes more accessible. This allows farmers to access a tremendous source of information. The challenge is to find relevant and applicable information. Additionally, it should be in a language that can be understood by the farmer. We realized that currently the search functions mostly deliver information from industrialized countries. Some farmers explained that they find information how to grow tomatoes in California. What they need is support in Zambia or at least the Southern African Region.
Some locally available apps respond to the geographic challenge. Unfortunately, these apps are often rather a sales tool for companies selling seeds or farming inputs, rather than an independent source for information. Farmers would need to install many apps to receive some level of information. Often these apps provide information on industrialized agriculture, since these companies have the financial ability to deploy apps. Alternative and more sustainable farming solutions are less accessible for farmers. This limits at the end the choices of farmers.
For digitally inexperienced farmers the search can already become a challenge. What are they looking for? Modern search engines are optimized for literate people, who mostly know the terminology of what they are searching or have an idea how describe it. This is another barrier for farmers.
Lastly, small-scale farmers in developing countries can find information online in many languages. But their education often does not allow them to understand these texts. Their reading skills in general are often low, combined with low reading culture. Like a saying in Zambia explains: “If you want to hide something from Zambians, write a book”
Following a number of interviews and workshops with local farmers in India and Zambia, gaipa addresses these challenges with the following strategies:
- gaipa is an open platform for farmers to access information and share experiences. It is not limited to a small number of agro-suppliers
- gaipa offers a guided and structured search, which is based on the topics a user needs assistance with. This approach follows the USSD logic, which is well known to most small-scale farmers from feature phones. A standard search function for experienced is also available.
- gaipa enables users to select filters (region, type of crop) to limit the results shown.
- gaipa is going to curate information in an easy to understand way. Using whiteboard animation instead of text allows farmers to understand the concepts and technologies presented to them.
- gaipa is providing a platform open for content providers (e.g. FAO, IFAD, Universities, etc.) to avail their information to farmers. (Currently, a lot of information is scattered or lost after a project ends.)
- gaipa enables downloading of the information from the platform with a single button for use in off grid areas. The sharing of the data via Bluetooth is being discussed.
- gaipa will provide a community function for users to interact and exchange on experiences.
- gaipa will enable users to access information (e.g. on irrigation methods) and find respective suppliers of technologies (e.g. solar pumps or irrigation kits)
- gaipa is an open source solution, which will be open for service providers and app-services to link with farmers via gaipa.
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