Winston Mano to join Mozilla project that will create a mobile phone app for Kenyan farmers

12 September 2022

CAMRI’s Winston Mano and his international team of researchers are among the eight projects each awarded USD $50,000 by Mozilla to leverage the Kiswahili language and voice technology for the purpose of increasing social and economic opportunities for marginalized groups in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Kiswahili-speaking Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Mozilla, the awards, totaling $400,000 USD, are for advancing financial inclusion, access to reliable information for smallholder farmers, and legal rights to land ownership for marginalized communities.

The title of the project is “Wezesha na Kabambe: Swahili Voice ChatBot for Empowering Smallholder Farmers in Kenya”. In collaboration with rural small-holder women farmers, the project will develop a proof of concept for a mobile enabled Swahili audio chatbot not reliant on internet connectivity as an alternative to agricultural extension officers and will leverage Mozilla Swahili data sets.

The project brings together an international transdisciplinary team with extensive research experience in technology, communications, media, gender, agriculture, economics, Swahili and linguistics in Africa and particularly East Africa. The members are research active and have each won several awards/grants. Their work has been published in conference proceedings and journals and been cited by African and other scholars globally.

The team is transdisciplinary. Winston Mano is a Reader and a member of the University of Westminster’s top-rated CAMRI and the Editor-in-Chief of the JAMS. His research argues for centring different ways of knowing and being in the world to expand existing epistemes and practices. His latest publication is about Big Techs examines how African governments need to foster knowledge and innovations in local communities.

Professor Masibo Lumala is a swahili-speaking academic at Moi University and is selected because of his current work with women smallholder farmers in rural Kenya. Lumala is a gender expert and also the Chairperson of Eldoret Innovation Ecosystem Advisory Board in Kenya. He is constantly in touch with smallholder farmers and more recently in his role as co-investigator for an AHRC funded Project in East Africa: Language, Gender and Leadership Network.

Professor Lusike Mukhongo is a US-based Swahili-speaking academic with lived experiences from Kenya where she taught at Moi University for more than 15 years. She is also the (Incoming) Associate Professor, School of Communication,. Western Michigan University, USA. She has experience working and researching on mobile technologies among rural communities in Kenya. Her latest research by ANF is on on hegemonic discourses about Africa as enabled by  technologies.

Professor Edwin Omondi Ataro is a Swahili speaking and award-winning electrical and communications engineering professor, whose research interests include optical communications, photonic devices, renewable energy and ICTs. He is the Executive Dean at Technical University of Kenya and is selected for the project because of knowledge and expertise in project design, modeling and simulation. His network of students and faculty with diverse interests in areas of Engineering, Architecture and the Built Environment at the Technical University of Kenya.

The research recognizes the local agency of rural smallholder farmers who face several challenges, yet are resilient, especially via chamaas and smallholder farmer cooperatives. The research is inclusive by deliberately targeting often neglected rural women smallholder farmers through development of relevant Swahili voice-based mobile technology. It will also do so through ethical interactions and engagements in Swahili, avoiding being extractive and intrusive. It fosters participatory and relational accountability in which the respondents’ ways of knowing will be centred in the research based on mutually sourced insights on the rural farmers’ livelihoods.

More info is available here:


Image: Photo by Muhammadtaha Ibrahim Ma’aji on Unsplash