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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
    Co-designing mobile tool to facilitate 'real time' access to African, smallholder farmer knowledge
    Average rating:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 5 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 4 of 5.
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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

      .As the authors assert, there is a lack of knowledge and valuation of smallholder farmers agricultural production practices including their choices, innovation and experimentation. In Africa smallholder farmers are a key part of local food systems and need to be included in efforts to enhance resilience to climate change re: yields of diverse, nutritious foods. This case study, using citizen science and mobile technology to gather information about local agricultural production illustrates the agency of smallholder farmers - albeit with a small 'proof of concept' sample -  and offers interesting insights into the 'real time' reporting of a diversity of crops grown and challenges, like pests and diseases, as per production that is spread out over a sizeable area with differing environmental contexts. The authors argue that notwithstanding some barriers like airtime, scaling up this concept has the potential to more widely share knowledge between farmers, for farmers to receive timely technical inputs as well as provide data to better inform decisions, in 'real time', such as, disease break-outs, timings and duration as well as tracking climate linked emergencies.

      This article could be enhanced by addressing a few gaps in the logic and flow of discussion - examples: it may be more relevant to speak of 'food insecurity' and 'malnutrition in all its forms' vs 'nutritional deficiencies' as linking it to the food system challenge of increasing urbanisation, growing population and climate change; more could also be made of the value of citizen science in this case e.g. ownership of ''data gathering'' and ''solutions'' and agency of smallholder farmers; a more definitive argument about diversity of crop production re: types of crops, timings of production and resilience to malnutrition in all its forms and food insecurity (insufficient access to preferred and sufficient food, at all times) - especially those most vulnerable as this illustrates the value of smallholder farmers in Africa and enhances the climate resilience value. The reported data illustrates what farmers practiced and brings together a picture of actual, local production and by inference a reflection of choices made by smallholder farmers - across time and space. However, the paper also argues that this approach and the co-designed tool illustrates the value of local knowledge-practice and innovation and experimentation. This key aspect could be more richly discussed. A final point to consider is reporting on a selection of socio-economic demographics of the initial and final pilot test sample (n=12; then n = 6) e.g. gender and age (and income, education if available).  It is further suggested that the authors review the frequent use of ''often'' through-out the paper.


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