This free Q&A platform is the game-changer that global food access needs.
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Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

It feels like any question is answerable online. But for small-scale farmers around the world, it's not that simple.

Take the story of Kenyan chicken farmer, Kepha. "There was a disease that was ripping through his flock," says Kenny Ewan, CEO of agricultural startup WeFarm. "He had something like 52 chickens that he kept and half of them had died within the space of a few days."

Kepha's entire livelihood depended on those chickens. And if he couldn't figure out a fix quickly, they were all going to die. "That paid for his kids to go to school," adds Ewan. "To put food on his table."


Image via Pixabay.

In the past, farmers like Kepha had to rely on visits to the local market to ask fellow farmers for answers to tricky farming problems. If that didn't work, they could ask local extension officers, agricultural experts funded privately or by the government. But these officers work with up to 20,000 farmers, so farmers getting face time with them is extremely rare.

Luckily, Kepha didn't have to use any of those routes. In fact, he didn't even have to step outside his own farm.

WeFarm provides a simple question-and-answer platform for farmers in developing nations.

"What we do is crowdsourcing of vital information for small-scale farmers, primarily that don't have access to the internet," says Ewan. "They can ask a question on anything that’s happening on their farm, and we get them the right answer from somewhere else in the world without them having to leave their farm, spend any money, or have any access to the internet."

A WeFarm ambassador showing a local farmer the ropes. Image via WeFarm, used with permission.

All any farmer has to do is text their question to a local WeFarm number, which is free. From there, WeFarm's tech automatically analyzes the message based on location, keywords, and theme to find and notify the best farmers in their network that can answer the question. Once those helpful farmers reply with an answer, it goes straight back to the farmer in need.

"It's a really great service," said Kepha on the WeFarm website. "You ask a question and in less than 10 minutes you have an answer. It has also motivated me in farming knowing that other farmers are out there doing similar things."

To date, over 147,000 registered farmers have shared over 19 million messages. And the effects have been life-changing.

Just look at how WeFarm helped Kepha. "He got advice back really quickly from another farmer that had the same disease, recommending things he could do and medicine he could use," says Ewan. "He managed to save just under half of his chickens and keep his flock going."

Image via WeFarm, used with permission.

Granted, Kepha is just one farmer with a small batch of chickens. But when you focus on the grander scheme of things, what WeFarm is doing has the potential to affect agriculture worldwide.

"Statistics suggest that up to 70% of all the food we eat on Earth is grown by small-scale farmers," adds Ewan. "With our hugely expanding population, that’s only going to get tougher."

Plus, with roughly 500 million small-scale farm families around the world living on less than $1 a day, providing them with meaningful solutions that cost nothing is crucial.

Image via iStock.

WeFarm's next big step? Reach a network of 1 million farmers and become the world's go-to agricultural guide.

Currently, WeFarm is only available in Kenya, Uganda, and Peru. But they have their sights set on Tanzania, India, and Brazil next. In time, WeFarm hopes to be available in every country.

But more than just a Q&A platform, WeFarm is also aiming to build stronger and more personal relationships. "If a farmer asked us about planting a specific crop," adds Ewan, "we can automatically compare their location to a weather report to tell them, 'Actually, don't do that tomorrow. Do it next week.'"

A WeFarm training session for local farmers in Uganda. Image via WeFarm, used with permission.

"That would be the ultimate vision. To be the ultimate source of agricultural information."

Unlocking this untapped wealth of grassroots knowledge could make a huge difference in improving global food access.

In fact, the world has already taken notice. WeFarm was one of the grand prize winners at the prestigious Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. They've also been tapped as one of the world's most innovative companies by Fast Company.

Image via iStock.

As amazing as these honors are, WeFarm's greatest achievement is still the work they do. "As we face new challenges like climate change and diseases and things that we've never seen before starting to affect crops all over the world," explains Ewan, "unlocking the knowledge that can deal with that on a practical grassroots level is fundamental in making sure that we can keep food sources available."

"That is going to be crucial in helping to feed the world."

A woman named Lisa posted a video on Facebook where she shared "the easiest way to make spaghetti for a crowd" as "you don't have to worry about dishes or a mess." I know there are a lot of people out there who love cooking a large Italian meal for family get-togethers, so it's incredible that Lisa discovered a way to do so without filling the dishwasher with a billion dishes.

It's also pretty amazing that she decided to share it with us.

In the video, Lisa explains that this is how "real Italians" cook for a large family gathering. What's really interesting is that she didn't have to cut corners with her recipe being that it's made for easy clean-up. It truly appears to be made with fresh, authentic Italian ingredients.

She even tops off the recipe with a salad made with Italian-style dressing. So you know it's authentic.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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