Resoconti di viaggio, scoperte e riflessioni sul mondo degli agricoltori africani che utilizzano mobile application per monitorare le fasi di vita della propria mucca o per scoprire i prezzi del cibo sul mercato. La rubrica accompagnerà l’autrice nell’esperienza di ricerca nel campo delle ICT4Ag in Senegal prima e in giro per l’Africa poi, grazie a una collaborazione con l’Università di Torino e ONG 2.0 e alla vincita dell’edizione 2014 del Journalism Grant.

Elisabetta Demartis è laureata in Sviluppo, ambiente e cooperazione presso il Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica dell’Università di Torino. Dopo varie collaborazioni nel campo del non profit e nel giornalismo sociale, si è specializzata nello studio delle ICT4D, che ha approfondito con esperienze di ricerca sul campo (Kenya, Senegal) e che continua a indagare tramite esperienze di digital journalism per varie testate. Da maggio si trova in Senegal, prima di una lunga serie di tappe africane che la guideranno alla scoperta di usi e conseguenze delle ICT nell’agricoltura e nel settore primario. Per saperne di più su di lei:


ICT for farming: videos and SMS to protect livestock in Senegal


Daral Technologies, an innovative project in Senegal, stems from the need to get an overall idea of livestock farming statistics and identify farmers and their livestock. There is no such initiative in this country.

By Elisabetta Demartis 


Who owns the animals? What kind of animals are they? Where are they located? If we could answer these questions, we could set up a digital identification process for both the owners and the livestock itself. This, in turn, will help to gain the much sought-after statistic in the sector, all the while solving the problem of thefts of animals. In 2007, for example, in Senegal the African horse sickness generated a two billion CFA franc damage because of the misinformation of farmers about how the illness could be prevented and treated.

How does it work?

The web and SMS application has three key functions.

According to Amadou Sow, Peul farmer and creator of the project, “the first step is to identify the breeder by means of a digitized system, collecting personal data (such as name, pictures, place of residence, telephone number and number of animals in stock).” “Upon registration” Amadou goes on, “a unique owner identification code is generated. It can then be tattooed on the animals so that they can be traced back to the owner in case of loss or theft”.

The media library is another key feature of this project, allowing for the prevention of livestock epidemics and the prompt spreading of preventive actions in rural areas. A mobile application allows the farmer to shoot videos of a sick animal and send it to the platform managed by experts and veterinarians from the farming Directorate. “After diagnosing the illness” the platform inventor quips “the experts send a message to the area referral center closer to where the video was sent from, detailing the recommended course of action to take. Close-by referral centers get both the original video and the one from an expert about how to deal with the illness.In this way, the awareness of the diagnosis spreads to other villages in the area, informing farmers about the existence of a particular disease.”

A public-private partnership

The project has entered into a partnership with the Senegalese Ministry of farming, which needs to collect data so to draw up reliable statistics for the sector. There are still no statistics on the industry, and it would be extremely useful to gather information about one of the most developed sectors of the country.

The third key feature of the project is the provision of an SMS service to the Ministry of animal husbandry for alerting farmers on topic such as theft of animals, vaccinations, diseases, etc. Due to the identification information collected for each breeder, the Ministry will gain access to their phone numbers and use the platform as a means of transmission of urgent messages and communications to wide scale. However, the revolutionary breeder did not stop here. He decided to go for more and has partnered with Microsoft for this project. Microsoft, on the other hand, provides computers, internet connectivity, and training to educate local project managers using Daral Technologies project village centers.

Centers are strategically set-up in locations where farmers meet once a week for animal markets (also known as Daral, in fact). In this way, farmers in the area will get in touch with the information managed by the centers thanks to airing videos in maxi screens for everybody to see.

In Senegal, and throughout Africa in general, there is an increasing number of projects and initiatives for the development of web and mobile applications helping farmers and fishermen to work at their best. Let us not forget that, according to Africa Progress Panel report, the continent could feed the growing populations inside its urban areas and address the global food demand. The so-called ICT4Agriculture, i.e. the set of technological innovations developed to facilitate access to information and communication between stakeholders working in the primary sector, is an increasingly effective tool for the improvement of the industry.
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Jjiguène Tech Hub in Dakar: women and ICT for rural development

The Jjiguene Tech Hub is the first all-girl tech hubs in Dakar. In 2011, the founders of the Center won the WCA Imagine Cup, an international competition aimed at students and sponsored by Microsoft, which recognized ICT solutions able to help reach the Millennium development goals.

by Elisabetta Demartis, Dakar

Jjiguène_Tech_HubJjiguène Tech Hub: the first project

“The project, called PAGEL (Pêche, Agriculture, Élevage),” said Awa Caba, one of the group founders, “is an online platform to provide infrastructural support to the commercial side of farming and fishing”. An e-commerce portal helps workers and small businesses owner monitor and then set the prices for their products, detect developing markets and gain worldwide visibility. “The project,” the young computer scientist, goes on, “looks like a repository of initiatives as diverse as Soo retul, Yegle, web and SMS platforms. They all share the common goal of protecting the work of farmers and stimulating business for those women producing fruit juices and similar products in rural areas”.

ICT for women and farmers

Soo retul, still under development, will enable female entrepreneurs to gain an online way to expand the number of buyers, usually very low given the limited possibilities for advertising of products to a wider level than locally. On the other hand, Yegle helps Kaolack region manufacturers get pricing information by sending a daily message to hundreds of people with the prices of all products on the market. 

By means of such a tool, the Jjiguène Tech Hub girls used technology to build on top of an existing mechanism. In fact, farmers were already enrolled in the SMS service which was then used to send automated messages to all of them. The system is also capable of recording information flows, as well as spot information.

“After a trial period, farmers understood very well the potential embedded in such a platform” Awa Caba muses, “so they felt the need to implement a communication strategy allowing for the tracking of the fertilizer and pesticide distribution processes“. As a matter of fact, these products are often donated by organizations such as IFAD, the State or non-profit institutions, and yet no system logs said donations and certifies that products have been distributed for real, and who they went to. Due to this platform, SMSs are used as reports and all deliveries recorded, making it a transparent process. The platform is also used to let producers have access to the weather forecast so they could better plan their work.

Rethinking finance for agriculture: a new challenge for ICT

Organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA), and supported by various bodies and foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation and FAO, the Fin4Ag International Conference took place between 14 and 18 July in Nairobi.

by Elisabetta Demartis, Dakar (Senegal)

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Agriculture: the future of Africa between tradition and innovation

Agriculture, fishing, farming, access to microcredit for rural women and employment of women in rural areas. The secret of the next economic development of Africa might indeed be rooted in its very ancient crafts.

by Elisabetta Demartis in Dakar (Senegal)

While farmers use their cell phones to keep updated with food prices on the market, women build web platforms to attract financing. Apparently, the interplay of tradition and innovation generates out-of-the-box solutions – so innovative that they could potentially overcome many of the problems historically afflicting Africa. Given that the biggest resource Africa has is its arable lands, all of this could indeed make it the richest country in the world.

On April 19th, the Africa Progress Panel presented the Grain Fish Money report at the West African Research Center in Dakar. Under the direction of President Kofi Annan, a group of private and public sector experts was given the task of generating widespread policy-making influence on the sustainable development of the African continent. The meeting was run by Marieme Jamme, founder of Africa Gathering and nominated by Forbes in 2012 among the 20 “Youngest Power Women in Africa” .

The 2014 report (available in French for download) highlights the huge progresses of Africa in the last few years, in just about all fields. Particularly, the primary sector sounds promising, especially when giving a closer look to agriculture and fishing. According to the report, however, the big part of what comes from this sector stems from illegal activities that are responsible for the loss of 50 million dollars of illicit capital altogether. Said loss spreads worldwide, accounting for 5.7% of the Gross Domestic Product of the entire continent.

The report also provides a general understanding of the main hurdles to productive processes and the development of Africa, focusing on sectors pivotal to the “rebirth” of the continent, such as agriculture and fishing. Illegal deforestation, unreported fishing and overreliance on import are among the major factors preventing the full development of the primary sector. Nevertheless, it sees a growing commitment by many organizations throughout Africa that have developed web and mobile applications platforms specific for the work of farmers and fishermen. They are collectively known as ICT4Agriculture, encompassing the whole set of technological innovations developed to ease information access and communication among primary sector players.

The aforementioned report outlined (see figure below) the more representative projects among those arising from the continent. They spanned from mobile applications on food prices on the market and the food supply localization to web platforms sharing the best agricultural practices, to mobile banking systems intensively used to buy and sell food products.




After the debate, innovation technology was pointed to as a solution to some of the problems outlined in the report. Additional suggestions involved three broad areas of competitiveness in Senegal. Suggested fields for improvement were, the role of women in local communities and their access to credit, the rights and practices of fishermen engaged in illegal fishing, and the role of Senegal within the agricultural and fishing industry relatively to nearby countries.

– using ICT and mobile devices for strengthening communication and disseminating information among the various primary sector key players;

– training of said players in managing informal micro activities and provision of legal support, especially to women;

– supporting agriculture and fishing as viable professions for the youth and spreading tools for direct financing without excessive bureaucracy;

– educating the locals in the consumption of local products and the various issues surrounding illegal fishing;

– regulating import-export practices so to prevent governments from signing up agreements with multinational business that exploit local resources;

– improving the infrastructures and stimulating market competitiveness.

“African products, such as fishing,” wrote Kofi Annan in the report “can not just merely nourish people, but can contribute to the development of the entire globe. In fact, we all can benefit from them, provided Africa becomes a prosperous, stable and fair continent”.