Ideas for farmers from IDEO.org

IDEO.org is the non-prHCD-field-guide-2015-coverofit arm of the design and innovation company IDEO. It applies the concepts of human-centred design to poverty alleviation. Juhudi Kilimo first worked with IDEO.org in 2012, on a project that used rapid prototyping to find out how technical information could best be shared with rural smallholder farmers.

During the project, a team from IDEO.org visited some Juhudi farmers, building and testing prototypes of different agricultural training techniques, including instructional videos featuring peers (members of the farming community) and a call centre. The videos were found to be more effective than the call centre, as farmers trusted the expertise and experience of their peers, and also learnt more effectively in a peer-to-peer setting. The rapid prototyping exercise is featured in the latest edition of the Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, published in April 2015 by IDEO.org.

Building on the initial human-centred design project, we have developed a library of training videos for our farmer clients, following the principles and best practices identified in the prototyping exercise. The engagement with IDEO.org was a good example of a field research partnership that generated practical and actionable insights for Juhudi Kilimo, and we are proud of being mentioned in the new Field Guide.

A few weeks ago, we met up with IDEO.org again, this time to gather information about the farming and irrigation practices of one of our farmer clients. Together with our Thika Branch BDO Milly Muhuro, we visited the farm of Ms. Teresia Katunge, a Juhudi client who has taken a loan to purchase irrigation equipment for horticultural farming.

The IDEO team – John Collery, Natalia Sourdis and Barry Lachapelle – asked Ms. Katunge about her agricultural practices, decision-making processes, and irrigation needs. They also tested a prototype low-cost sensor device that can be used to gather data about soil quality and weather conditions.

The visit was brief but sparked many questions about how timely and accurate information and data could help farmers conserve limited or costly resources like water and fertilizer, while making crop production and irrigation practices more efficient. The Juhudi Labs team is keen to continue working with IDEO.org to find practical, human-centred solutions to such challenges facing smallholder farmers.

Photos courtesy of Natalia Sourdis, IDEO.org

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Futurepump and Ojay Greene win Innovations for Agriculture 2014

On Saturday 1 November 2014, Village Capital and Juhudi Kilimo announced that Futurepump and Ojay Greene have received a venture capital investment of USD $100,000 as the two top-ranked startups in the VilCap Kenya: Innovations for Agriculture 2014 program.

Seven businesses participated in the VilCap Kenya: Innovations for Agriculture program. These early-stage companies are solving some of the biggest problems facing smallholder farmers in Kenya through business solutions, with long-term benefits for farmers and local communities.

Futurepump has created the Sunflower, a low-cost, high-efficiency piston irrigation pump for smallholder farmers.

Ojay Greene sources fruits and vegetables directly from smallholder farmers and sells them to high-end markets, principally supermarkets and hotels, in Kenya.

The Village Capital program, in partnership with Juhudi Kilimo, Invested Development, the Lundin Foundation, and Stitching DOEN, gave mentorship and business development to these entrepreneurs during three intensive workshops over three months. At the end of the program, the entrepreneurs ranked each other, and the two highest-ranked companies received USD $50,000 each in funding. With the investment capital received, Futurepump and Ojay Greene will further develop their businesses to meet the needs of smallholder farmers across Kenya and empower them with sustainable agricultural solutions.

The announcement of the two top ventures was made after the VilCap Kenya: Innovations for Agriculture 2014 Venture Forum, where the entrepreneurs pitched their business plans to a group of angel investors, venture capitalists, potential partners, and customers. Last month as part of the workshops held to empower the startups, the participants had the opportunity to test the market by presenting their products and services during a Customer Forum organized in Thika.

The 5 other ventures featured in the programme are:

Develatech sells low-cost cook stoves (The Jiko Chap Chap) that reduce harmful CO2 and particulate emissions by 87%, boils water in half the time of three stone fire competitors and uses up to 180% less wood.

Edge Group is a cloud-based, offline and self-service Management Information System that enables middle and lower level farmer organizations to manage memberships, inventory and payments at 1/10 the cost.

F3 Life provides commercial credit to smallholder farmers in Kenya and, to our knowledge, is the only commercial credit provider in East Africa or elsewhere to build natural resource management into loan terms.

MobiCrop is an online micro-investment crowdfunding platform that facilitates investments into farming ventures.

Wakala Africa has developed an innovative, drought resistant line of vegetable seeds and is building a local brand that will inspire as much trust and confidence as imported seed varieties.