One of the posters encouraging farmers to join FarmerBot. Photo courtesy
More than 22,000 farmers in Kenya have joined a growing social media network group for virtual specialised crop husbandry and marketing information.
The Telegram FarmerBot group, which is supported by http://farm.ink/, is offering the farmers free expert and peer information on four main crops.
They include tomatoes, capsicum, onions and watermelons. The drivers of the group are also moving into cabbages, chillies, and a bit of poultry to respond to the widening audience.
“A farmer is required to install the Telegram app. FarmerBot sends a link to the farmer allowing them to join the group. The only cost the farmer incurs is that of accessing the internet. The information is highly accurate because it has been refined by experts,” Business Development Director Noah Nasiali said.
With the help of experts from various agricultural companies – for example Yara and Syngenta – the famers get answers from moderated panel discussions, besides personalised help in respect to the problem in question.
“Farmers are advised to belong to specific groups in respect to the crop they are growing. This eases the discussions among the farmers as well as from the selected experts of a given crop,” Nasiali said.
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Besides, the director said, the grouping also allows for the members to fit in the 5,000 Telegram members limit.
As another personalised service, the farmer receives crop management information based on the data they give. The personalised information from the chat-board is in respect to their crops of interest.
Getting weekly personal tips on one’s crops of interest is at the control of the farmer through free subscription.
For instance if their tomatoes are six weeks old, they receive reminders on pruning, fertigation, weeding, pesticide application, staking, among others until harvesting.
“This best works for the young employed class, who are running parallel agribusiness ventures. Given their busy schedule, they need to be reminded what needs to carry out at given times, to boost productivity out of the side hustle,” he said.
They create their farm’s profile, which are also learning examples for others.
The app allows for sharing of photos, which can help the farmer describe well what may be ailing their crops for an apt solution from the pool of agronomists and experienced peers.
They also get to know how to intercrop to boost productivity.
If one is growing watermelons, they can intercrop them with sunflowers, which will be feeds for animals after harvest.
WhatsApp is one of the commonest direct social media app that is serving more than a billion people globally. It allows for formation of groups to serve various purposes in respect to the members. But the groups cannot have more than 256 members.
Telegram can accommodate up to 5,000 members and allows for sharing of files of more than 1.5GB while WhatsApp does not pass 160MBs.
For entry, one can click this link, https://t.me/FarmGroupBot, to send the app link to their Internet-enables cell phones.
Nasiali can be reached on +254722907203 or +254799087084.