Ari.farm, a new agritech app, is helping to bring nomadic Somali livestock farmers into the digital economy. The idea was inspired by a relatively new concept called “crowd-farming,” an agricultural adaptation of crowd-funding, which connects farmers with investors through a digital platform.
As ICT development and access to mobile internet in developing countries is crucial to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improving people’s lives, Ari.farm is one of the many success stories of how rural farmers are benefiting from new applications of mobile technologies. ITU News sat down with the founder of Ari.farm, Mohamed Jimale, at Seedstars Summit to discuss how his app is changing lives for farmers in Somalia.
Jimale was raised in a community of nomadic farmers in rural Somalia. With a background in IT and international development, he saw an opportunity to connect nomad farmers to the digital economy.
“While I was working with the UN last year, I was getting a lot of news about farmers and nomads in Somalia struggling with their life,” he said. “I wanted to do something sustainable. So I did a lot of research online, and found different initiatives leveraging this concept of crowd-farming and that stuck with me, because these farmers in Somalia have assets; they have animals. So why not help them sell their assets?”
How did Ari.farm manage to bring Somalia’s farmers into the tech scene? Simplify the technology.
Ari.farm is a first-of-its-kind mobile application that allows anyone with a smartphone to purchase and invest in livestock in Somalia.
Through the app, users buy animals such as goats, sheep, cows or camels through their smartphone. The animals are then raised and cared for by the nomadic farmers, and users make a share of the profits when the animals are sold or have offspring. The mission of Ari.farm is to positively impact nomadic communities, and the platform has successfully contributed an enhanced level of stability in the lives of livestock farmers.
“We try to simplify technology for the user-end [on] the back-end,” said Jimale.
The on-the-ground operation is conducted by local teams made up of livestock experts and former nomads. The local teams work as intermediaries responsible for reaching out to nomad communities and purchasing their livestock – a proactive approach that doesn’t disrupt livestock farmer’s nomadic lifestyle. The nature of work requires only basic technology skills, such as taking pictures of livestock and reporting regular updates back to the office.
Not without risks
As a former nomad himself, Jimale’s biggest obstacles are not in navigating the Somalia’s complex environment or tracking down nomad communities. According to Jimale, the two primary risk factors for his startup include climate and security. According to the Somalia Drought Watch’s latest findings, drought has affected approximately 50% of the Somali population and displaced around 444,000 people. Another factor is the security issue. Somalia’s security crisis is exacerbated by long-running regional disputes. The ongoing conflict situation makes it challenging to deploy local teams to some parts of the country, let alone to conduct on-the-ground operations.
Social impact and emotional connection to increase user engagement
Users invest not only money but their emotions in the livestock. The platform allows users to name and monitor the well-being of the animals they purchase through real-time statistics. Jimale wanted to explore the emotional element and to have the users establish some sort of relationship with the farmers and the animals.
“I think for some customers, it’s become too emotional,” Jimale half-jokingly said. Instead of having users get too emotionally attached to the animals, he would like to draw the focus on the social impact they are making. Ari.farm has successfully helped Somali farmers finance their losses and damages resulting from seasonal drought and other unmanageable hardships, and provide job opportunities to nomads in rural areas.
More From ITU: To facilitate the uptake of ICTs for agriculture, ITU is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to assist countries in developing national e-Agriculture strategies using the ITU-FAO e-Agriculture Strategy Guide. Those e-strategies are essential first steps for any country planning on using ICTs for agriculture. E-agriculture strategies will help to rationalize both financial and human resources, and address holistically the ICT opportunities and challenges of the agricultural sector while generating new revenues and improving the lives of people in rural communities. The two agencies are working also to facilitate knowledge sharing where countries and solutions developers can share their experiences and challenges through a collaboration platform to showcase solutions, accelerate innovations and demonstrate the positive impact of ICT Applications on the agriculture sector.