Making farming cool for youth

Waikwa Maina @PeopleDailyKe

Raspberry pi 3, a pocket size computer is set to change farmers’ lives in rural Kenya.

Farmers can now manage complex issues in their farms such as security and watering systems from the comfort of their homes.

The technology targets youth with a view to bridging technological, social and economic gaps through a package branded as Transform Our Problem to Transcend Our Potential, which uses an approach borrowed from Israel. Technology Of Peace (TOP), the firm that has introduced the gadget in Kenya is looking at using affordable technologies to  add value  to farmers’ lives.

 “The vision of TOP Kenya is to develop young leaders who can use simple approaches to connect with the environment,” says Philippe Scheimann, TOP founder member. 

Eyal Bloch, TOP founder and Jerusalem-based Institute of Education for Sustainability co-founder says their objective is to address basic life necessities using sustainable materials with minimum maintenance costs.

“We claim that we have gone digital, which we are using technology, but truth is that technology is using us,” he says. 

Schools and Colleges Permaculture Programme (SCOPE), regional chairman Eliud Kihoro said the Technology Of Peace would help the youth practise farming in a modern way.

“The average age of Kenyan farmer is 50 years, yet, youth are the majority in Kenya. It is not easy for  the youth to embrace  traditional methods of farming because they  are tiresome, outdated and not appealing. These are gaps TOP seeks to cover through the open computer technology,” he says. 

To achieve these objectives, TOP has introduced a pocket-sized computer, the Raspberry pi 3, a  gadget  Scheimannt describes as an open computer.

An open computer, is a gadget open to the user and they can manipulate it to perform whatever task he or she wants.

“It’s a small portable computer, safer and easy to use. It’s a full compact, powerful gadget that does not require the user to seek  a technician’s services. It can be used anywhere  and can  be connected to any attachment that can serve as a monitor, including a projector,” says Scheimann.

During a one-week training, youth who had never attended any computer engineering classes were able to navigate through the computer to make working systems such as robots, cartoons and electronic farming systems. 

A trainee Monicah Njoroge says, “I never thought farming can be this fun, we made a simple green wall garden, and then connected the Raspberry to the farm, where different alarms were set for different purposes. For example, we made a system whereby a sensor attached to the soils detected when the farm was dry. We created a red light alarm to show that the farm needed water, and a green one to indicate that it had enough water,” she says.

This means that a farmer does not have to keep checking if his plants need water and they can monitor their farms when they are far away. “Using Raspberry and two sensors, a red and a green one, we were able to test humidity and other stimulants to the environment,” says Daniel Omondi.

SCOPE-Kenya coordinator, John Macharia says with the green wall technology and the  Raspberry gadget, a space measuring six-feet tall with a width of 3.5 feet can comfortably supply a family of two with enough vegetables and fruits throughout the week.

“Fruits and vegetables consume better part of the family budget since they must be in the daily menu. These technologies are the way to go for families in both rural and urban set ups because they are cheap. Construction of a small-sized garden requires a capital investment of less than Sh300 in urban areas, while all the materials are locally available in rural areas,” says Macharia.

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