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    Review of 'Supporting the capacities and knowledge of small-holder farmers in Kenya for sustainable agricultural futures: A Citizen Science pilot project'

    Supporting the capacities and knowledge of small-holder farmers in Kenya for sustainable agricultural futures: A Citizen Science pilot projectCrossref
    The research offers insight to smallholder farmers' role in food systems through citizen science.
    Average rating:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 5 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 3 of 5.
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    Reviewed article

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    Supporting the capacities and knowledge of small-holder farmers in Kenya for sustainable agricultural futures: A Citizen Science pilot project

    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 and existing nutritional deficiencies, the need to enhance food production across the continent is thus seen as a major global imperative. We argue here, however, that current models of agricultural development in Eastern Africa often marginalise critical small-holder 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 understandings. 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.

      Review information

      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Agricultural ecology,Geosciences,Anthropology
      Citizen Science,agriculture,Technology and environment (e.g. geo-engineering),People and their environment,Sapelli,Sustainability,Agriculture and the environment,Kenya,farmer,co-design,trans-disciplinary,Africa,sustainability,smartphone

      Review text

      Insight into monitoring smallholder farmers' ecological and socioeconomic change is often met with challenges due to difficulty in collecting data. This aspect, as authors assert, lead to difficulties in local and regional policy making in emergency situtations and in long term decision making. Hence, this case study, using citizen science and mobile technology to gather information about local agricultural production proves to be a valuable and much needed approach in collecting and monitoring 'real time' data of crop yield, disease outbreaks, pest control, and area production accounting for differing environmental contexts. As with most mobile data collection approach, the access to mobile data and airtime would be critical to make citizen science approach successful. Despite such barriers, scaling up this approach has the potential to give agency to the farmers to make better informed decisions and share knowledge of best practices. The paper could be strengthened by discussing the importance of co-designed tool especially on the value of local knowledge-practice and innovation and experimentation. This key aspect could be elaborated adn discussed further. For instance, by exploring the specific practices involved in knowledge co-production, the process of conducting transdisciplinary and co-production of knowledge research projects, stakeholder needs, and research team capacities. The practical implications could also be discussed, for instance, lessons learned during the process of assessing user needs, which is an essential element of co-producing knowledge.


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