Problem: Small-scale dairy farmers often living in remote areas don't have access to valuable information about latest prices of milk or cattle, and they may not keep accurate records of important details such as their cows' gestation periods or their livestock's lineage – often resulting in inbreeding and disease.
Solution: iCow is a text-based subscription information service to improve the productivity and earning power of Kenya's 1.6 million farmers and other small holder farmers across Africa in order become climate resilient and food secure.
Goals and Objectives: To harness the power of mobile phones to encourage best practice for dairy farmers and increase milk production.
Implementation: iCow was conceptualised in October 2010 after the founder Su Kahumbu Stephanou an ardent organic farmer, was encouraged to enter the Apps4Africa tech hackathon sponsored by the US State Department. Su was at the time designing a product she had named Mkulima Farmer Information Service and Hotline (Mkulima F.I.S.H), a comprehensive agricultural extension service available to farmers over mobile phone. Building on her experience and interactions with smallholder farmers Su recognised that to be successful, farmers needed access to knowledge on good agricultural practices in both livestock and crop production. She thus set out to develop a service that would enable farmers access the vast amounts of content and verified agricultural knowledge available in the regions agricultural institutions, in a format that would be in line with smallholder production systems, simple, cost effective and real time.
Mkulima F.I.S.H was designed to including content on crops, livestock, soils, farmer health and the environment. Being competitive in nature, Su took on the challenge to enter the hackathon with a component of Mkulima F.I.S.H, the cow gestation calendar, and named her entry iCow.
The gestation calendar was designed to solve the problem of lack of monitoring a cow during its pregnancy. By monitoring each cow adequately farmers reduce the risk of illness and death at birthing as well as increase their chances of a healthy calf and optimally productive mother cow. iCow required farmers register individual cows onto the platform after which they begin to receive reminders on dairy cow best practices and actions needed to increase their productivity.
Achievements: In 2012 iCow won the Vision 2030 Award for Agriculture in Kenya and was a finalist in the same year for the Innovation Prize for Africa.
Cow 2.0 was designed to scale across Africa and released on October 18th 2015. The development supported by Accenture has positioned iCow as a one of a kind solution for smallholder farmers on the continent. 2016 saw a deployment of the platform in both Tanzania and Ethiopia.