Crowdsourcing and contracts help smallholder farmers in Ghana and Kenya.

By Danica Lo
Updated May 24, 2017
© MCT via Getty Images

For many smallholder farmers, staking claim to their own land can be a huge challenge. Landmapp, a tech company based in the Netherlands with a satellite headquarters in Ghana, is working to serve this 500 million-strong community by giving farmers access to a mobile platform that helps document their territory. Landmapp also assists with ongoing business development by educating the farmers about land tenure, and working with the local community to issue official documents that are signed and filed with both the farmer and regional authorities.

Since its launch in Ghana this year, Landmapp has created more than 1,000 maps—and, according to a report on the BBC, "80 percent of traditional chiefs are interested in this service."

"Land tenure insecurity is a core barrier to land investment and farming," Landmapp co founder and CTO Thomas Vaassen told the network. "Without proper documentation, there is a real risk of losing the rights to a land parcel. Also, without documentation, it is often not possible to access financing, as the document is the only collateral at hand for most farmers."

Landmapp isn't the only tech company helping smallholder farmers grow their businesses. WeFarm helps farmers share information—even without access to the internet. According to surveys, 90 percent of smallholder farmers have access to cell phones.

"WeFarm is a free peer-to-peer service that enables farmers to share information via SMS, without the internet and without having to leave their farm," the company's mission statement says. "Farmers can ask questions on farming and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers around the world in minutes."

The case studies seem simple and straightforward—but imagine how life-changing this type of shared information is for a farmer that can't access Google. Clara, a single parent farmer in Kaptumo Village, Kenya, noticed that one of her cows was having trouble standing. After texting WeFarm, she learned that the cow had a mineral deficiency—and that she should supplement the cow's diet with calcium and phosphorus.

"Clara immediately ordered the feeds with the correct minerals and started to grow hydroponic fodder to keep her cows healthy. Not only did she solve her problem but also learned a new skill in the process. One week later: Clara is now the proud owner of two healthy cows with better milk production. She sells the milk to the nearby market helping to increase her income as a single parent to 5 children."