You’re a farmer in a remote area of Kenya. Bugs are eating your maize. None of your neighbors has seen this before. What are you going to do?

How about a hotline?

In Kenya, the M-Kilimo helpline has given agricultural advice to nearly 25,000 farmers during its 18- month pilot phase. The project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the GSMA and managed by KenCall in Nairobi, uses a mobile helpline to provide thousands of small holder farmers in Kenya with specific, timely and accurate information, as well as tips to help increase their incomes and farm productivity. (Burness has provided communications support for this project.)

With numbers on all three major networks and costing essentially the same amount as a call to a friend, M-Kilimo is improving the work and lives of farmers.

Farmers can ask any agricultural question they have, on any topic including:

  • Crop information for plants, fruits, vegetables, and cereals, including which seeds to choose in a specific area, how and when to plant, how to care for the plants, how to diagnose and control disease, how to use fertilizers and pesticides, and how and when to harvest.
  • Animal information about livestock, fish, bees and even butterflies. M-Kilimo’s advice covers everything from where to buy baby animals, to how to feed them, build housing for them, diagnose their illnesses, and sell them.
  • A weather forecast that allows a farmer to plan his or her activities.
  • Information on current market prices for farmers’ products that allows them to make better decisions about when to harvest and sell.
  • The helpline answers most questions almost immediately, and if more research is needed, an answer is provided within 24hours.

The ultimate aim: to help farmers improve their yields through better farming practices and help farmers get fair prices for their produce at the market with a better understanding of product demand by providing farmers with information they would not otherwise be able to access. And with almost 25,000 farmers served so far, M-Kilimo is doing just that.