October 12, 2011
Kenyan farmers who own just a few cows need to get the most from these precious assets. More than 1,300 farmers throughout Kenya are now receiving text messages each week with guidance to help them breed, feed, and care for their cows and maximize their health and value.
The messages, delivered to mobile phones by the mobile application iCow, was demonstrated last week for Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), by a beneficiary farmer of the DAI-led Financial Inclusion for Rural Microenterprises project, which is funded by USAID and based in Nairobi. The farmer, named “Gitau,” described for Shah how iCow helped him make a 100 percent profit by finding a buyer for his milk.
Sourcing customers is just one of iCow’s services. Its main service thus far has been to facilitate healthy livestock breeding. Farmers who register a cow on iCow are kept abreast of the cow’s estrus cycle, and when to breed the cow and test her for pregnancy. Subscribers also receive regular updates about care during gestation, birthing tips, and information on nutrition. These alerts remove much of the guesswork on breeding, saving farmers time and money and resulting in more efficient breeding and healthier and more valuable animals.
iCow was developed by Su Kahumbu of Green Dreams Limited and launched in June 2011. Funded by a grant from Indigo Trust, Kahumbu received technical and business support from DAI en route to launching the application. The service costs subscribers approximately 3½ pence per message.
iCow also conveys veterinary and market information, helping farmers and related services and buyers in Kenya work together, and sends alerts when diseases such as hoof-and-mouth disease break out in the country. The application is designed to run on both low-end and high-end mobile phones.
Shah was accompanied on his visit by ambassador Ertharin Cousin, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, and Jonathan Shrier, Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security, U.S. Department of State.
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