Sustainability Exchange

Real-time Information from Smallholder Farmers

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WeFarm is an innovative service that enables farmers to ask questions on farming and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers around the world in minutes. They can do this without the internet and without having to leave their farm.  WeFarm has already transferred 11.3 million pieces of information via SMS messaging; this great amount of data can help give insight into common issues that farmers are facing.

At this stage, we are able to offer our partners real-time insights into their own supply chains by identifying their producers’ challenges and most discussed issues. Over the next few years, our goal is to connect with NGOs, governments, agribusinesses and solution-oriented organizations and offer partners aggregated information into entire regions, crops or markets. To do this, we need to know which data points are the most useful and how we can value to our data to make it actionable for potential partners.  This leads to our question:

 We have real-time data on smallholder farmers. Which real-time insights on smallholder farmers would be most valuable to your organization?


WeFarm is an award-winning peer-to-peer network for smallholder farmers to share agricultural information worldwide via SMS. See more info about us at

September 23, 2016 13:58

         Integrated farming systems modules which are site specific considering different agro climatic situations. Research on two models (Agriculture based IFS and Livestock based IFS for small and marginal farmers and horticulture produce processing, backyard poultry-goatry based employment generation) will ultimately help design technology option for accelerated livelihood security for horizontal expansion and spread. One of the dilemma farmers face is decrease in income at the time of glut or high production. However, the income can be further increased provided agricultural produce is processed and sold in market. Individual farmer has neither marketable surplus nor economy of scale and therefore, is dependent on market players who do not help him in realizing higher returns during high production.   

        The sustanability for the small land holding farmers are possible by using integareted farming system approach by using basket of low cost technology which include crop management, soil and water conservation practices, application of biofertilizers and biopesticides, integared pest and disease managemnt ,integrated nutrient management,processing and value addition chain  that will  increased their income through technology intervention and organizing them in groups.Promote dryland horticulture, mushroom, vermi-composting, nutri kitchen gardens, processing and value addition of fruits and vegetables for sustainable development and promote livestock development through oestrous synchronization, dairying, goat, backyard poultry farming to augment agriculture income.and develop linkages with market, banks and agriculture institution.


October 01, 2016 09:36

October 01, 2016 09:42

Hi Amy,

thanks for this important initiative. For development organisations like Helvetas, but also for producer organisations and businesses contracting smallholders I see the following data as key:

  • total land holding and areas under main crops (in order to analyze shifts in crop shares, optimize rotation and plan marketing of rotation crops)
  • inputs (fertilizer/manure, pest management, irrigation, hired labour) and yields (in order to analyze yield response and optimize the production system)
  • production costs and revenues for major crops (in order to calculate gross margins, compare incomes of participating farmers vs. non-participating farmers, monitor trends, identify cost drivers)
  • overall farm income, including from animal husbandry (in order to understand the relevance of the promoted cash crop for the household)

I consider it as essential that the information is fed back to the individual farmer in an understandable format so that they can themselves reflect how to optimize their farming operations. This would tremendously help to professionalize farming.

Keen to hear from others how they are using data for these - or other objectives!

Best regards,


October 03, 2016 09:54

Hi Frank, 

Thanks for your comments, much appreciated and very useful.

Feeding back this information to empower farmers is very much part of our core mission - all the information we capture is generated from farmers, for farmers, and is therefore very "user friendly" and easy to implement. Farmers will receive tailored information back from other farmers stratight to their mobile phones, and those who have Internet can access all the interactions and search through the Q&As for any specific topics or keywords they are interested in. We are developing our platform further to make it more intuitive and share all our data findings with the farmers themselves. 

Although it is still early days, organisations have been using our data to monitor trends and understand what's happening at the farmer/producer level of their supply chains ( what are the most discussed issues, how do these compare to crop cycles, what issues are relevant to what groups, how are women engaging with their peers, are there any Qs relating to disease, pests or crop diversification etc). It is also being used to scale and monitor the success and impact of trainings: by understanding the issues and problems felt by farmers, organisations can tailor their interventions and training programs and understand which modules have been understood and which need more work. In essence, WeFarm provides a feedback loop: if farmers have been trained on water management, and they start asking lots of questions on the topic, it will help identify good practices and understand uptake and adoption. We have been working with partners supporting coffee and cotton farmers in Peru, as well as tea farmers in Kenya and hope to get some interesting feedback from them. 

Please let me know if you would like to discuss this further, I'd be happy to have a chat.



October 03, 2016 16:36

To do this, we need to know which data points are the most useful and how we can value to our data to make it actionable for potential partners.

  The following data is quite important

  • Total  cultivable  farm  area of that targeted  area.
  • Which are micro farming system available their for the farming.
  • what  are the soil type , water/ irrigation  availability,climatic vulnerability of that area.
  • availability of mechanical  machinery or equipments.
  • crop and variety suitability index.
  • major pest and diseases, soil analysis report and integarted nutrient managment requirement.
  • cost of the crop  cultivation report.
  • Average land holding among the farmers and the major crop they are growing
  • Advance  technology adapatability and farmers  economical condition.
  • irrigation facilities availability and methods of irrigation.
  • post harvest management technology availability
  • yield of the crop and starage facility availability
  • net income from  that perticular crop
  • processing and value addition  technology availability 
  • cost benifit ratio of the crop
  • total net income from the total farm.  

            all the data will be related  on the objective of the project and have to  collect the individual farmers data which will based on different crop management and different farming situation.


with regards


October 03, 2016 11:39

Hi Kamesh, 

Thanks very much for your input, it's much appreciated and very useful for us. 

Over the last 18 months, pest & disease management and soil fertility have been two of the most discussed issues by WeFarm users. Users also regularly ask about soil irrigation, specifically about the best type of irrigation for different soils and crops (esp. rice, maize, tomotoes), as well as for greenhouse farming. WeFarm also captures profile information from our users including location, gender, age, main crop and the cooperative they belong to. We don't yet have any information on the size of farms, income or technology available to them. However, many of our users ask about accessing captial and loans to buy specific farming equipment so we could therefore build on that. 

I hope this is useful but please let me know if you have any questions as I'd be happy to discuss. I see that you are based in India, which is hopefully to be the next country we launch in!

Thanks again for your help.

Kind regards,



October 03, 2016 16:49

Hello Amy,

Your initiative sounds very interesting. I cannot speak for my organization but personally I believe that such real-time data on smallholder farmers could be beneficial to many along value chains.

Besides farmers themselves who are the users of these aggregated or disaggregated data? companies? Or also governments? NGOs?

I wonder if information provided by other farmers are validated by technical experts and agronomists before they are transmitted. As we know well for farmers a source of information is very crucial. Do farmers obtain the entire information on data they receive, for example, who provided that advice, where that person is located. These are important because the climatic conditions vary by region, crops have different varieties, and prices of produce depend on quality, seasons etc. The farmers should be able to consider these differences before they apply advice received from their peers.

In terms of data usage by development organizations, for example, I see that data on smallholders could be used:

  • to identify where farmers need assistance for accessing markets for their produce. In this case, development organizations can play a role of facilitation of value chain development;
  • when developing capacity building/ skills development programmes or organizing study tours among farmers;
  • to document good practices at all stages of value chains where smallholder famers are involved in;
  • to provide extension/ agribusiness advice to compliment peers advice;
  • for farmer field schools

As the initiative sounds very interesting to me I have rather many operational questions (such as how do you resolve language barriers), than inputs.  

Thank you,

Kind regards,



October 04, 2016 11:45

Dear sir,

           The real time information from  small holder farmers is to depends upon the growing the crops i.e complition of the season of the crop. Usually  the real time for the information is after harvesting of crop.In india the best time is the summer it will start from month March  to may. generally this time is preferable beacuse the farmers started planning of next season and taking feedback of previous  season. The farmers collected  the data of the previous season it includes cost of cultivation , gross profit, net profit and problems or factors which are  affected the productivity. therfore the best time for the information from the small farmers is after complition of previous season of the crops. that time he will able to share the information of the productivity and etc.

October 15, 2016 09:07