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Supporting the capacities and knowledge of smallholder farmers in Kenya for sustainable agricultural futures: a Citizen Science pilot project.

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Haklay, Muki 
Kiprutto, Timothy 
Laws, Megan 
Lewis, Jerome 


Sub-Saharan Africa is often presented as the continent most vulnerable to climatic change with major repercussions for food systems. Coupled with high rates of population growth, continued food insecurity and malnutrition, thus the need to enhance food production across the continent is seen as a major global imperative. We argue here, however, that current models of agricultural development in Eastern Africa frequently marginalise critical smallholder knowledge from the process of future agricultural design due to a lack of a methodological tools for engagement. This paper addresses this by outlining a potential means to capture and share locally produced agronomic information on a large scale. We report on a 'Citizen Science' pilot study that worked with smallholder farmers in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Western Kenya, to co-design a mobile application using the well-developed Sapelli platform that easily allows farmers to identify, record and geolocate cropping patterns and challenges at multiple stages in the agricultural calendar using their own understanding. The pilot project demonstrated the technical and epistemological benefits of co-design, the abilities of smallholder farmers to co-design and use smartphone applications, and the potential for such technology to produce and share valuable agricultural and ecological knowledge in real time. Proof-of-concept data illustrates opportunities to spatially and temporally track and respond to challenges related to climate, crop disease and pests. Such work expounds how smallholder farmers are a source of largely untapped ecological and agronomic expert knowledge that can, and should, be harnessed to address issues of future agricultural resilience and food system sustainability.



Africa, Citizen Science, Kenya, Sapelli, agriculture, co-design, farmer, smartphone, sustainability, trans-disciplinary

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UCL Open Environ

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UCL Press