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."

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via @Todd_Spence / Twitter

Seven years ago, Bill Murray shared a powerful story about the importance of art. The revelation came during a discussion at the National Gallery in London for the release of 2014's "The Monuments Men." The film is about a troop of soldiers on a mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

After his first time performing on stage in Chicago, Murray was so upset with himself that he contemplated taking his own life.

"I wasn't very good, and I remember my first experience, I was so bad I just walked out — out onto the street and just started walking," he said.

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