Life Apps | Silicon Savannah: Kenya

Muniu Kariuki is an app developer living in Nairobi. With friends, he runs Bityarn Consult, a small technology start up. In this programme, he takes up the challenge of seeing if he can develop a ‘Life App’ that can help small Kenyan farmer William, who runs a subsistence farm in rural Ugenya, 300 miles from Nairobi, where he’s an expert on cultivating traditional African vegetables, but would like his modest farm to be more productive and profitable.

300x500_fitbox-william.jpgWilliam explains: “Farming has been challenging because I don’t have any proper training. I love indigenous vegetables because not many people are growing them now. My farm is two acres. I usually only make a profit of 25 dollars per month when I sell my produce. The amount is very little and is not enough during these hard times.”

Can Muniu come up with an app that can help William reach out for new business opportunities? For the last two months William’s been meeting with a group of other local farmers. They’re linked to an older, regional farmers organisation, called TATRO. The meeting gives Muniu a chance to see if other farmers have the same problems. Then he takes William to Luanda market, one of the largest markets in the area. It’s only 40 kilometres from William’s home. But he’s never been here. He finds out that what he sells for seven cents, is sold for twenty-five cents here!

In western Kenya the Technology Adoption through Research Organization (TATRO) has mobilized farmers into growing traditional indigenous vegetables. But those old physical problems of communication make it a tough challenge. Bityarn, through Muniu, helps William link up with other farmers in the TATRO network – with his mobile phone.

For the first time, farmers in groups will be able to share real time information – using a basic cell phone app. Later it can be a fully-fledged smart phone app – a smart phone app like the hundreds created in the tech innovation centres of I-Hub. The app they develop is called ‘Rotuba’, it’s a Swahili word meaning fertility. It’s a simple platform to exchange information.

300x500_fitbox-farmers.jpgThe TATRO group will first register the farmers’ details. The information is then sent to Rotuba’s database. The farmers then send reports to Rotuba via text messages – like how many types of crops they’re growing or planting or harvesting, or selling. And Rotuba then sends back text messages to share information’¦. information like ordering produce for market days, or sharing equipment.

“I am very happy now,” says William. “These people who came, walked in our shoes as farmers. We are very motivated now. Everyone’s saying that they are going to plant more indigenous crops. I will now give myself the task of educating my fellow farmers.”


Apps for Good is the award-winning programme by CDI Europe where young people learn to create apps that change their world.

To look back on the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, see the UN pages on that conference.

And here is the website of this year’s Rio Earth Summit 2012

Muniu’s startup company Bityarn is an internet consultancy in Nairobi developing mobile applications.

iHub is Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community.

Read how Kenyan farmers can benefit from growing traditional vegetables with the help of TATRO.

TAGS: climate change food fishing & farming science & technology

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