For small-scale farmers in rural Egypt, getting good advice is a challenge: Extension workers—experts who give guidance on farming techniques—may visit occasionally, as part of government outreach programs. But for the most part, many farmers have little formal training or support. And as weather patterns become more unpredictable, their own knowledge—gleaned from decades of experience—is proving less and less helpful.
That reality is now changing, thanks to CNFA (Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture). A global agricultural development non-profit organization, it specializes in designing and implementing sustainable, market-led agricultural, agribusiness and livestock initiatives to meet the world’s growing demand for food. Through the Food Security and Agribusiness Support project, CNFA is seeking to boost incomes and improve food security for 14,000 smallholder farmers across Upper Egypt by 2020. Providing accurate, real-time information to farm owners is a key part of this effort—and an opportunity which Souktel is excited to support. The project is funded by USAID through a Leader with Associate award managed by Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA), as part of the Feed the Future initiative.
As the project ramps up, CNFA is preparing to launch a Souktel-designed multi-channel mobile platform for farmers: Farmers can ask questions via Facebook Messenger, SMS, or mobile audio—and get real-time advice on topics ranging from pesticide use to market access. The platform’s knowledge base has been developed by CNFA and leading agriculture extension experts, who also provide live support to farmers.
In parallel, farmers can connect with peers through the platform—to crowdsource answers or compare notes on key issues. A separate, closed-group option lets female farmers share tips on juggling the responsibilities of newborn care, family nutrition, and on-farm work.
“We’re honored to partner with CNFA on this multi-channel platform launch,” noted Souktel CEO Jacob Korenblum. “There’s a real lack of Arabic-language farming information; our aim is to change that.” He adds: “Offering a range of access options is also crucial: Farmers have different levels of familiarity with mobile tech, and different income levels. For people who have smartphones and use Facebook Messenger, we want to offer them quick & easy chat interactions. For farmers who have more basic phones, or who can’t read, we want to ensure they receive the same information via audio or SMS. And by making the service available across all mobile networks, we make certain that no one is excluded.”
“Our partnership with Souktel will allow CNFA to provide real-time, valuable information to help improve the livelihoods, capacity, and knowledge of smallholder farmers,” said Paul Sippola, CNFA Vice President of Programs. “Souktel shares our commitment to build local technical expertise and capacity and improve the level of communication on horticulture production, agricultural market information, and family nutrition.”