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

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            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.


            Author and article information

            UCL Open: Environment Preprint
            UCL Press
            21 June 2022
            [1 ] McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge and Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London
            [2 ] Department of Geography, University College London
            [3 ] Prosperity Co-Lab Kenya and British Institute in Eastern Africa
            [4 ] Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics
            [5 ] Department of Anthropology, University College London
            [6 ] Independent Researcher
            [7 ] Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London
            [8 ] Prosperity Co-Lab Kenya
            [9 ] School of Natural Resource Management, Department of Forestry and Wood Science, University of Eldoret
            Author notes
            Author information

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            : 21 June 2022
            AHRC and ERC AH/T00424X/1 and 694767

            The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
            Agricultural ecology,Geosciences,Anthropology
            Agriculture and the environment,farmer,smartphone,Africa,agriculture,Sapelli,Kenya,sustainability,People and their environment,co-design,Sustainability,Citizen Science,trans-disciplinary,Technology and environment (e.g. geo-engineering)


            Date: 31 Jan 2023

            Handling Editor: Dan Osborn

            Request revision. The Handling Editor requested revisions; the article has been returned to the authors to make this revision.

            2023-01-31 12:14 UTC

            Date: 14 July 2022

            Handling Editor: Ian Christie

            This article is a preprint article and has not been peer-reviewed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment for open peer review.

            2022-07-14 13:43 UTC

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