We’ve developed a dedicated WhatsApp service, in collaboration with Mercy Corps AgriFin, Mediae, iShamba and PennState/PlantVillage, to support real-time monitoring of the Desert Locust crisis that is threatening crops and food security - and contributing to the climate emergency in East African rural communities.
A dedicated 24/7 WhatsApp service called the Shamba Shape Up Hotline has been created for Kenya that allows live monitoring of the Desert Locust crisis through frontline reporting by Kenya’s smallholder farmers. Activated when users text “locust” to +254 20 764 0202, the service enables the provision of reliable ground intelligence as one of several reporting channels helping inform Kenya’s critical response.
With this tool, Kenya’s smallholder farmers become a new citizen reporting group for a real-time desert locust response.
WhatsApp’s ability to allow users to share photos of locusts and to indicate their location via a pin is particularly valuable in this reporting effort. With this tool, Kenya’s smallholder farmers become a new citizen reporting group for a real-time desert locust response. Many of the regions of Kenya where Desert Locusts are swarming are hard to reach due to flooding, infrastructure and other issues. This makes mobile phone-based tools, in the hands of millions of smallholder farmers, an important element in supporting data collection, mapping and public information efforts.
Built using Turn’s chat for impact technology, the service enables farmers and other users to report locusts in their area by sharing a photo or location pin via WhatsApp, get information on where locusts are in Kenya at any point in time, check on dos and don’ts and access other advice. The latest Desert Locust crisis news as well as educational content and videos are also easily accessible on the WhatsApp tool. The service also includes vital health information on COVID-19 drawn from the World Health Organization’s up-to-date and accurate information on the global pandemic.
Mercy Corps’ AgriFin Program is an organisation that leverages the prevalence of digital technology to develop digital products and services that smallholder farmers need to increase their productivity, incomes and resilience. AgriFin has partnered with social enterprise media production house, Mediae, to develop educational TV content to promote reporting channels and improve Desert Locust specific knowledge. This helps in linking reporting efforts to a dedicated call centre hosted by iShamba. Crucially, all data collected through WhatsApp is fed into the Penn State/Plant Village Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-backed eLocust3M locust reporting app. This streamlines data flows and allows for a targeted ground response.
80% of the population in lower-income countries survive on crops grown by small-scale farmers. 1/4 of those crops are projected to fail due to the effects of climate change, exacerbated by the Desert Locust Crisis
Eighty percent of the population in lower-income countries survive on crops grown by small-scale farmers. One fourth of those crops are projected to fail due to the effects of climate change, exacerbated by the Desert Locust crisis – making the Turn.io-powered WhatsApp service a crucial tool in the fight against food scarcity on the continent. Given the accelerating Desert Locust crisis in the region, the service will soon be launched in Ethiopia. Watch this space.
Mercy Corps AgriFin
The AgriFin program is an innovation catalyst that drives private and government partnerships to develop and scale a variety of digitally-enabled financial and information services tailored to promote smallholder farmers’ income, productivity and resilience.
The Mediae Company
Founded in 1997, Mediae is a small social enterprise that’s committed to addressing the informational needs of East Africans through sustainable and research-based media productions. Through a delicate balance of entertainment and education, we produce pioneering and inspirational media in order to supply vital knowledge in forms that can be widely accessed and understood. And in so doing, empowering the lives of millions of viewers.
PlantVillage is a research and development unit of Pennsylvania State University that empowers smallholder farmers and seeks to lift them out of poverty using cheap, affordable technology and democratizing the access to knowledge that can help them grow more food.
iShamba helps farmers improve their farms and get better yields. Sign up to iShamba and turn your farm into a profitable business.