Kenyan dairy farmers to benefit from Safaricom's partnership with iCow Dennis Mbuvi

June 26, 2013

Safaricom has partnered with iCow to help more farmers access the application. Launched in 2010, iCow provides dairy farmers with information and professional advice on rearing of their animals. The application was launched at the Brookside Livestock Breeders show, currently ongoing at the Agricultural Society of Kenya Show Grounds at Jamhuri in Nairobi. In attendance were Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore, iCow founder, Su Kahumbu and a number of farmers attending the show.

The app was launched in 2010 to fill an information gap that farmers face. Kahumbu says that the biggest challenge that farmers face in Kenya is lack of information. As a result, most farmers were resulting to trial and error. “iCow takes the error out of trial for farmers,” she says.

The app now provides calendar, advice and veterinary information to dairy farmers.The calendar solution enables farmers to track a cow since insemination, through development of the calf to delivery. In addition to advice, other information provided include contacts for veterinary officers and insemination officers in the farmers locality.

Kahumbu says the app was originally designed to function via SMS, leading to it being available on any phone. This means the average dairy farmer, who Kahumbu says are 60 years old, can access the app.  

Mathibu Mwangi, a dairy farmer from Naivasha says he has found iCow useful to the point he wrote down SMS received through the app on an exercise book after his phone run out of storage. Mwangi has used the app for 725 days (2 years), receiving 310 SMSs. He started using the app after he bought his first dairy cow, a rejected animal, which he was able to turn around and grow into a stock of two heifers, with one due to deliver in the coming months.

According to iCow survey data, farmers who have been on iCow for 7 months begin to realise an increase in milk output of between 2 to 3 litres per animal per day. This is an increase of about 610 to 930 litres a year which translates into an average increased income of KSh. 25,000 to KSh. 30,000 per animal per year. iCow data also shows farmers have reduced cow and calf mortality thus enabling farmers grow their greatest asset base.

Collymore says he met Kahumbu on 12th January, 2012 at the iHub, after a shy Kahumbu asked her teenage daughter to make the introduction. The Safaricom CEO said he was immediately impressed by the application and agreed to a partnership between the two firms.

He further commented that the app was especially important for the KSh. 40 billion dairy industry. “These farmers have no opportunity nor finance to seek professional advice. As a country, we take pride in being the home of innovation. Innovation has cut across all sectors from education to tourism. Agriculture has been left behind in innovation, despite being the background of the economy. With the right technology, solutions can be found,” he said.

Safaricom also took the opportunity to announce that iCow will now be available as a USSD based application, where farmers can access the app by dialling *285#. In addition, the cost of the app has been reduced from KSh. 5 per SMS to KSh. 3 per SMS.  The app will also now be available in Kiswahili in addition to English. The firm is targeting 1.6 million small scale dairy farmers with the application.

Under partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), iCow has seen farmers using the app grow from 300 in 2011 to 45,000 at the moment. The Indigo Trust has also funded iCow to the tune of £65,000 (KSh. 8.6 million) through five grants, with the aim of seeing the app replicated in other countries with small scale dairy holders.

Dennis Kioko

Dennis Mbuvi

Dennis Mbuvi has been writing at CIO East Africa Magazine and since May 2010. His key focus is the use of technology to solve day to day business challenges and product reviews. 

Mbuvi has been invited to speak at various IT, Telecom and Media events in the region. He was also a keynote speaker at the inaugural Joomla day in Kenya talking on possibilities of the Joomla Content Management System. Mbuvi holds a B.Sc in Computer Science degree from Kenyatta University. He is on Twitter as @denniskioko


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