Roughly 80 percent of people in East Africa work in the agricultural sector. For those raising livestock, ensuring their cattle remain healthy is more than just a job – their livelihood depends on it. Farmers often deal with sick cattle that suffer from a variety of diseases ranging from trypanosomosis to schistosomosis. Remote farmers have limited access to veterinary care and medication for their livestock, which makes fighting off these illnesses even more difficult. A start-up company based out of Glasgow, Scotland, is looking to change this.
Cojengo was started by two computer science students, Craig Taylor and Iain Collins, who recognized that mobile technology, a new and booming sector throughout Africa, could be harnessed to help rural and remote farmers control and monitor their livestock’s well-being. The two entrepreneurs partnered with Microsoft and set out to develop a new mobile app, called VetAfrica, which allows both farmers and veterinarians to diagnose livestock on the spot, receive information on proper medication to be administered, and share information through cloud software so that illnesses can be tracked and monitored across each area.
VetAfrica has proven to be innovative as it utilizes new technologies to help farmers gain access to information they never had before. The mobile app saves them both time and money; rather than hiring and waiting for a veterinarian to come to their farm, they can self-diagnose cattle and immediately know how to care for any sick livestock.
Information is shared with other app users via a wifi connection. This helps farmers keep track of illnesses that are within the region, and prepare for any future outbreaks. It also helps veterinarians and others working with animals study what illnesses and diseases are present, how widespread they are, and whether or not they are curable. All of this helps create future preventative measures, and allow veterinarians to know what they will be working with while out in the field.
While users do need a wifi connection to share information, there have not been many issues to date. There have, however, been some language barriers. Most current users can read and understand English, but diagrams have also been used to help those who do not. The app also has a review section, so users can post any comments or feedback to help determine what is working, and what improvements could possibly be made in order to help boost the app’s overall performance
VetAfrica has been designed to initially help farmers living in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania. Currently, the majority of illnesses and diseases that can be detected using the app are found in East Africa.
Pilot projects started earlier this summer with the Kenyan government and other private organizations that have partnerships with rural and remote farmers. Eventually, the goal is to spread throughout all of East Africa, and eventually the African continent as a whole.