Meet the five digital service providers reaching women farmers in the Inspire Challenge

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At ICTforAg 2023, five winners of the rebooted Inspire Challenge were announced, challenged with increasing women’s participation in digital agrifood services. To support the challengers to achieve their agreed upon target, CGIAR Digital Innovation provides training in human-centered design, and the challenge sponsors provide grants upon completion up to a total value of US $50,000.

Get to know the five challengers taking part over 2024 in the profiles below:

Climate Smart Coffee (Sprout)

Early warning system providing Climate Smart Coffee Alerts to farmers in Kenya, with pilots taking place in Guatemala and Rwanda.

Challenge goal: Sprout will aim to increase the percentage of women coffee farmers actively participating in the Climate Smart Coffee program to 30% or more.

Climate Smart Coffee by Sprout provides index-based crop insurance that automatically pays out to farmers under certain climate conditions. Since 2021 Sprout has sent 40,000 SMS alerts to help farmers prepare for predicted weather events or crop diseases, one of a range of digital products for customers under development. Sprout aims to serve 1 million coffee farmers in countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Guatemala by 2030; to ensure women are included, Sprout will use support from Inspire to better understand the gender digital divide and incorporate the findings into the design of its services.

Sponsors: CGIAR Initiative in East and Southern Africa

Bee-Kind by Wombees (Women for Bees)

Digital app providing scientific advice, credit and market access to over 500 beekeepers (12% women) in India

Challenge goal: Increase the number of Bee-Kind digital beekeeping advisory service users by at least 500 and increase the percentage of women users using scientific beekeeping practices to at least 35%.

Since 2020, the Bee-Kind app has offered a comprehensive companion for beekeepers in India, with real-time scientific advice, training and support accessing markets. The AI-powered voice interface overcomes the challenge of low literacy levels. With Inspire support, Wombees will engage with women beekeepers and self-help groups to create a gender inclusion strategy, incorporate women’s feedback into the app design and target empowerment initiatives at women.

Sponsors: CGIAR Initiative on Digital Innovation and USAID Feed the Future

Agroconsultas

A platform connecting 300,000 farmers (46% women) with expert technical advice in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, expanding to Colombia and Mexico

Since 2013, Agroconsultas has used digital technologies to connect farmers with world class technical support online to increase their productivity. To date, farmers registered on the platform have asked more than 23,000 questions on agricultural practices to the 200 experts available on the platform, who receive a payment and public recognition for their work. Agroconsultas aims to improve gender balance among users accessing the Platform by implementing better tracking and pilot programs designed to raise participation.

Challenge sponsors: CGIAR Initiative on Digital Innovation, CGIAR AgriLAC Resiliente Initiative, and USAID Feed the Future

Farm2Go by World Food Programme

Mobile app connecting farmers (60% women) in Bangladesh, Mozambique, Rwanda and Philippines with an anonymous digital marketplace to trade produce without gender discrimination

Since 2019, the Farm2Go app has connected smallholder farmers supported by World Food Programme with new digital markets to earn a better price for their produce. Farmers are registered to cooperatives that offer their combined produce to buyers. The app monitors stock of produce and can be used offline in remote areas. The platform can also be used to provide agronomic advice to farmers, and market data to policymakers. As farmers remain anonymous, women receive the same price as men. Support from the Inspire challenge will help to increase female participation as the app is scaled out to new countries.

Sponsors: CGIAR Initiative on Digital Innovation and USAID Feed the Future

Innovakit

Technological and social innovation hubs for participatory knowledge transfer to 3000 smallholder coffee farmers (20% women) in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru and Uganda

Since 2015, Inmovakit has helped farmers best practices to ensure quality in on-farm coffee production (cultivation, harvesting, pulping, fermentation, drying, and storage) using technologies that standardize processes, achieve consistency in cup quality, and ensure environmentally sustainable coffee production. The participatory methodology involves training lead farmers as technology transfer agents. Inspire is supporting a ‘Digital Coffee Influencers’ program to elevate the role of women in coffee production.

Sponsors: CGIAR Initiative on Digital Innovation, CGIAR AgriLAC Resiliente Initiative, and USAID Feed the Future

About the Inspire Challenge

Under the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture program (2017-2021), the original Inspire Challenge awarded 28 grants to 21 projects, resulting in innovations such as an AI-based phone app to monitor pests and diseases in cassava and other crops, crowdsourced data on traditional food markets in Vietnam and a chatbot service for farmers in Africa.

In 2023, the Inspire Challenge was launched as a Pay-for-Results program designed to stimulate digital agri-food technology programs and agri-entrepreneurs, who may not have a clear incentive to address challenges such as the gender digital divide. Underlying causes of the divide include access to services and technologies: in low- and middle-income countries, women are 28% less likely than men to own a mobile money account, for example.

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