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How TechnoServe is Working with Tech Partners to Scale Impact

Technology can be a powerful tool for improving lives in the developing world – but only if it is deployed in the right way, considering local needs foremost. TechnoServe works with pioneering tech partners to develop and scale up solutions to poverty around the world.

Who are the tech partners that help TechnoServe identify, test, and implement development solutions around the world? We introduce you to a few below:

Microretail Data Tracking – Buymore – Kenya

In many developing countries, small retail shops – often known as “dukas” – represent a critical piece of the local economy. In Kenya, the informal retail sector generates 70% of total retail revenue. However, many duka owners don’t have effective ways to track their sales or inventory, limiting their incomes and ability to grow their business. Improving the profitability of small shops can have an important ripple effect across communities.

In response, TechnoServe partnered with the Kenyan tech startup, Buymore, which specializes in digital retail solutions. The result was a mobile-based application to help duka owners capture sales, manage inventory, and track goods sold on credit. Through the pilot, TechnoServe trained 31 entrepreneurs on the application’s use, including how to enter their inventory and sales data into the application. By utilizing Duka POS, shopkeepers were able to keep track of their sales and profit margins; effectively monitor their inventories; and increase the transparency and accountability of their business.

For Peninah Karemi, who runs the “Hope” shop in Nairobi, the digital system [POS] was transformative. “The POS has also helped me to understand which products bring in the highest profit margins and vice versa,” she says. “The POS also keeps me informed on product movement, and I therefore rely on it to make decisions on which products to stock…This has helped me make informed business decisions, e.g. what amount to save and re-invest in my duka.”

E-Learning Solutions – Instructure Canvas – India

In India, young college graduates from low-income families face many obstacles when entering the workforce, including lack of necessary soft and technical skills, limited access to gainful employment, and being ill-prepared for success in the job search. The Campus to Corporate Careers (C2C) program transforms the lives of underprivileged college youth by giving them the skills they need to be successful in entry-level white collar jobs. C2C has a significant e-learning component and uses Instructure Canvas – a learning management platform – to help TechnoServe reach and train more students every year. The online learning platform is fast, intuitive, and easily accessible for students, making it easier for trainers to supplement and enhance their in-class training.

Remote Sensing – AtlasGIS and Airbus – Benin

The cashew sector could be a game-changer for Benin’s economy and the many smallholder farmers and small food businesses who rely on it. The tasty nut provides a quarter of Benin’s income from agricultural exports, and could be the country’s biggest export – if only the sector’s potential were realized. In the coming years, Benin aims to more than double cashew production, which would generate new economic opportunities and better livelihoods for thousands of farming families. However, unless cashew growers are able to improve the yields on existing farms, growth in production is likely to come from converting forests into new cashew orchards, with negative consequences for biodiversity and the environment.

TechnoServe has partnered with Wehubit – Belgian Development Cooperation’s digital-for-development program – to launch the CajùLab initiative, which uses digital solutions including drones, satellite data, and machine learning to improve the productivity and environmental sustainability of the country’s cashew sector. The program is working with a local drone company called AtlasGIS for drone imagery collection and analysis, and will purchase high resolution satellite imagery from Airbus. The drone and satellite imagery will be analyzed using machine learning algorithms that will be developed to identify land management practices (density, tree age, etc.) and farms that need extra interventions (e.g. showing signs of old and unproductive trees, crop infestations, or deteriorating soil conditions).

The combination of remote sensing and machine learning can also identify where farms are starting to encroach upon forested areas. This will allow TechnoServe, through its BeninCajù program, to more effectively target its training efforts and help farmers adopt climate-smart agricultural practices. In addition, the program will train and support cashew sector stakeholders in Benin to use remote sensing and machine learning to continue monitoring cashew plantations.

Green Technology – SunCulture and HelloSolar Technology PLC – Ethiopia

Throughout Ethiopia, farmers turn to the sky, hoping for the right rainfall at the right time. Only 5% of the country’s land is irrigated, drastically limiting farm productivity and vulnerability to climate threats. Enter the solar-powered irrigation pump. This pump, which uses energy from the sun to transfer water to farmland where it’s needed, has been used by farmers in a number of countries with great success. However, farmers in Ethiopia have been largely unable to access this type of technology.

TechnoServe is partnering with HelloSolar Technology PLC – a solar energy solutions provider committed to improving the quality of life of rural communities in developing countries by giving access to solar energy – and SunCulture – a Kenya-based company that develops and commercializes solar-powered water pumps and irrigation systems. The Smallholder Solar Pump Alliance, which includes five unique partners, will create a sustainable, scalable model that empowers smallholder farmers to use appropriate, green technology to boost their productivity.

Coffee Farmer Training and Recruitment – Google and Facebook – Puerto Rico

TechnoServe Labs has started working with Google volunteers to test the use of video content and social media to drive farmer recruitment in programs. The Puerto Rico coffee team is currently editing and releasing short 3-4 minute training videos at the rate of about one per month (one for each agronomy best-practice) and is promoting them on YouTube and Facebook. Initial results showed that boosted videos received three times more applicants than non-boosted videos.

Learn more about how we are using technology to improve lives and transform communities.