Testing WeFarm in Kenya

WeFarm is a platform from the Café Direct Producers Foundation which enables farmers without access to the internet to share knowledge over large distances using SMS messaging. Manifesto’s Louise Bliss and Leon Sinclair went to Kenya recently to see how the technology stands up to user testing. This is Louise’s report from location.

WeFarm Collage

After a very early morning (3am alarm!) and a long flight we arrived at our first destination: Nairobi. By the time we got to our hotel there was just enough time for some food, and then bed before day 1 of WeFarm testing.

Testing prep and ‘tweaks’

First thing in the morning (luckily Kenyan first thing worked out to be around 10:30am) me, Leon and the guys from Someone/Else met with Teresa and Sylvia from the Nairobi Producers Foundation team to go through the plan, testing discussion guides and the SMS messages.


The most important thing we needed to discover from the testing was whether what had been designed was relevant for the farmers. What makes sense to us from our central London studios, using stack exchange and Quora on our iPhones will be very different to a farmer in Kenya with no internet access and a Symbian handset.

The meeting was great. We made some ‘slightly’ more than minor tweaks to the SMS copy (some might say we re-wrote the whole thing) and met some challenges with the multi-lingual features of the project.

To take one example, the word ‘reference’ translates to ‘memory’ in Swahili, that’s not going to work… maybe we’ll change it to code? Nope, that doesn’t exist in Swahili. Hmm… going to have to think that one through…

With our changes sent back to the UK to update the system, and after a quick lunch in town, it was back to the airport for our Jambo Jet flight (yes, that really was the name of the airline!) to Eldoret and transfer to Nandi Hills where the testing would begin in the morning.

Testing day 1

We started the day with a warm welcome from the local Sireet Co-op team.


Sireet has around 7,000 farmer members covering 5km of tea fields that produce 3.5-5 million kgs of tea every year (or about enough to keep the Manifesto office running for a good 6 months). So of course the first thing we had to do was sample the tea from the local factory.

Then it was time for some testing…

The co-operative management team and ten farmers from across the local co-operative were very generously spending the whole day with us to test the new system. Once everyone had followed the first instructions to join, we broke into small groups to observe and ask questions about what the farmers thought of the user scenarios we’d devised and system itself.

Farmers successfully signed up, provided information about their expertise, asked questions, answered one another’s questions, sent tips and reported questions all via SMS.


As with all live testing, there were a few hiccups along the way but, with the Conker team working through them back in the UK as we went, the session as a whole was a huge success.

After 4 hours of testing and pages of feedback noted the farmers departed with a real sense of excitement about the WeFarm platform.

Tomorrow we will be doing some more SMS testing with farmers in their tea fields. Then we’ll head back to the Tea Planters Inn for web testing and translations. This includes help from a member of the Producers’ Foundation in Haiti providing live translations of questions and answers into Spanish.

Just a few more ‘tweaks’ to make first…

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