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FarmDrive: A Young Woman in ICT4Ag – A Case Study

April 23, 2015

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is very often perceived as a male-dominated field. But CTA's experience through the Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society (ARDYIS) project, has shown quite a different picture. For example, the first prize winners of the two editions of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards) have been young women. Similarly, many team members who participated in the Agri-Hack Talent initiatives to develop ICT solutions to agriculture challenges were young women, and a female team (Agri-Info from Tanzania) even won one of the prizes.

Far from being uninterested in the ICT sector and having a lesser presence compared to their male counterparts, young women in ICT and agriculture are making a difference and creating a positive impact in their society. To mark this year's International Girls in ICT Day, we share the story of Peris Bosire, the co-founder of FarmDrive from Kenya (one of the finalists of the AgriHack activity in 2013), and a great example of the possibilities for young women in ICTs and agriculture.

Article written by Peris Bosire, FarmDrive.

Peris CTA Portrait 30Education gave me the chance to shine and venture into ICT4Ag

I am Peris Bosire, a co-founder of FarmDrive, a start-up that is providing innovative solutions to enable smallholder farmers to access sustainable finance. FarmDrive provides comprehensive smallholder farmer credit profile data to financial institutions who lack data on smallholder farmers, often leading to their financial exclusion. It helps these farmers build credit profiles from their daily transactions and activities at their farms, which are then used by the financial institutions to inform their lending decisions.

I grew up in Kebuse village, a small, impoverished rural farming community in Kisii, Kenya. Growing up in this community, where most of the members were unemployed and relied on  agriculture for their livelihoods gave me a unique perspective on ICT4Ag and girl-child education. I believe an education does more than liberate people from poverty; it is the foundation of social and economic progress. Education has given me a chance to shine.

I first used a computer during my junior high school. I was mesmerized by it and it informed my decision to pursue computer science at degree level. Undergraduate computer science studies were both challenging and interesting. The learning curve was steep and the reality of having chosen a career in a male-dominated area was difficult at times. I had to deal with subconscious gender stereotypes and push the boundaries to ensure that I was active in core tasks during group assignments instead of being asked to do the mundane tasks.

In retrospect, being in this male-dominated environment opened my eyes to the infinite transformative capabilities of technology and my capabilities as a woman. I realized that I was as skilled (or even better) at computational problem-solving as my male peers. I felt empowered and started viewing the world as it should be rather than as it is. I developed an interest in the design and use of technology in resource-poor areas using my community as a reference point. When I heard of the AgriHack Talent Initiative organized by CTA in Rwanda (2013), I had no doubt that I wanted to participate.


The AgriHack Talent brought a whole new perspective

The AgriHack Talent Hackathon was an inspirational week for me, where I met fellow student entrepreneurs and established innovators that I strive to emulate. I was challenged to look at ICT4Ag in a new light. Growing up, technology was simply a ‘big word’ I could not relate to, but now, it has become a term I associate with in many capacities.

I appreciated the chance to view Africa from a multi-angle perspective, as we discussed how Africa’s arable farming land can feed the estimated 9 billion world population by 2050. I left with a different mindset, and wanted to inspire more women to participate in ICT4Ag due to the noticeably low numbers of women there.

Findings at the Global Forum and Expo on Family Farming (March 2014) reveal that women are the backbone of family farming. They play multiple roles, undertaking both productive and reproductive activities in agricultural/rural households. However, women farmers achieve yields that are 30% less than men because of unequal access to resources. If women get equal access to resources, they could improve their yields which would reduce food insecurity of agricultural/rural households.

This presents an opportunity for young women to build solutions using ICT for women in agriculture – from women to women. No one understands the challenges of other women better than women themselves. The cascading effects of ICT will result in increased revenues and more educated women. By pioneering organized agriculture African women are responsible for the greatest invention for the well-being of humankind: food security.

International events: from AgriHack Talent Hackathon to GFIA, and more!

A mobile phone-enabled agro-advisory service presents a way of empowering women farmers. We need more tools to help women in informal self-help groups to access financial institutions to manage their savings and get credit. Women self-help groups need financial literacy tools to help them manage their savings and revenues. This is just a sample of the numerous opportunities where technology can be used as a driver.

This year I attended the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) along with many high profile stakeholders from across the globe. I met with one of the partners of eLeaf, a Netherlands-based high-tech company that works with remote sensing data. This data is critical to FarmDrive and we have since formed a partnership to work together for sustainable agriculture.

PP11 FarmDrive LogoCurrently, FarmDrive is one of the 12 start-ups from nine African countries selected to participate in the Village Capital Fintech for Agriculture: East Africa 2015 Accelerator Programme. We are currently receiving training in business model development, customer hypothesis testing, financial modeling, partnership and customer development, and investor engagement. We’ll get an opportunity to present to potential partners and customers at a public event in mid-May, and pitch to investors at an investor demo day on 24 June 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. We expect to increase our revenue growth by 4.5 times and provide our services to 200,000 customers within the 2 years after completing the accelerator. 

My message to other young women in ICT4Ag

GirlsinICTs flyerI would encourage young African women to join us at the table – to solve challenges in agriculture using technology. Young women’s thinking about technology and agriculture must change for a lasting impact – they need to get the message that it is not a male reserve. Africa has innumerable opportunities to empower it for self-reliance and exercise our economic muscle using technology. Women should be part of the journey.

I feel empowered every day that as a young woman I am contributing positively to my society and that I have the same platform as men to do so. ICT does not discriminate in terms of gender and there are a lot of opportunities for women to excel and be change-makers. We should use the existing gender gap in ICT as an opportunity to introduce young girls to technology and their problem-solving capabilities at an early age.

I owe many thanks to CTA for giving me the life-changing opportunities to attend the AgriHack Talent and GFIA conferences. They have opened invaluable partnership opportunities for FarmDrive and have given me a glimpse of the vastness of the support structure available for African women. Finally, I would suggest that African student entrepreneurs should not only think one-dimensionally about entrepreneurship, but should acknowledge its many components (business and service aspects), which are undeniably the most important.

Follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtags #GirlsinICT and #WomenInTech

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