Wheat farmers can now engage scientists directly on various aspects of the crop production following the launch of an app known as Elimsis. Dr Immaculate Maina, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro Njoro Centre Director, said the application launched by the organisation would provide farmers with firsthand information on the correct farming practices.
“The quality and quantity of food production highly depends on the farming practices. It is, therefore, important to continuously guide farmers from planting to harvesting,” Dr Maina said.
To use the app, farmers have to first download it from the Google Play Store, then register and start engaging researchers on things like disease outbreaks, including by posting photos of the plant. Dr Maina said the application would encourage regular interaction between scientists and farmers as opposed to annual open day visits that have been the norm.
She noted the app would also help farmers get quality seeds developed by the institution as they can ask directly the researchers. I run my farm on my mobile phone She warned farmers against storing a section of their harvest and using it as seeds in the next season, noting such practices are the ones that lead to low harvest and rise in diseases. Robert Gitau, information technology expert at Kalro, said the application works offline once downloaded and farmers can also get tutorials on various aspects of wheat farming.
However, the farmer would need to be online to reach scientists in an engagement similar to WhatsApp and also access lessons. There are six modules namely planning and land preparation, planting, weed control, wheat diseases and pests, harvest and storage.
Wheat rust, one of the worst fungal diseases that affects the crop, is a major threat to the production of the cereal. The disease cuts production by up to 70 per cent heaping losses on farmers. “A farmer requires their mobile number and a password to access the app. Once signed in, the farmer can also get updates from Kalro via sms at zero cost,” Gitau explained. The application provides an option of Swahili or English at the point of installation, allowing it to reach a wide audience.
“The language that the farmer chooses becomes the language of interaction. Therefore, the videos that will be uploaded by Kalro will be voiced in the language of choice,” he said. Although the application is limited to wheat farmers, Gitau said there were plans to include other crops like maize and even content on livestock with time.
Dr Maina believes increased communication between scientists and farmers will increase the quality and quantity of wheat in future. “This platform will also help to reduce post-harvest loss and minimise the poor farm management practices of wheat farmers leading to increased yields in future,” she said.