It may not be the first thing you think of: nowadays farmers make appointments with professional veterinarians via mobile phone thanks to CowTribe, a tech startup in Ghana. What is CowTribe actually? In simple words it is the “UBER for vets” but in fact, it is way more than that. Before giving more details on the agtech startup itself, let us quickly take a look at the problem they are trying to solve.
Livestock mortality is an issue
There are over 13 million smallholder farmers who live in rural and peri-urban areas of Ghana. In these areas, over 75% of rural people and 25% of peri-urban people depend on livestock for their livelihoods. The rearing of livestock play an important role in enabling smallholder farmers have resilient livelihoods and to avoid both food insecurity and poverty, as livestock can contribute up to 33% of household income. Most of these farmers, however, are losing out due to high livestock mortality. In some communities the mortality rates could be as high 60%.
Ghana faces severe shortage of veterinary workers, with around 42 specialists and less than 2000 technicians available to meet the needs of millions of farmers. Eighty percent (80%) of vets in the country are located in major urban centers and only the more affluent farmers have access to them.
Rural farmers need professional veterinarians very badly. And the country isn’t producing vets at a rate that will meet the market demands: Less than 100 vets per year graduate in Ghana and the nation needs to increase that number nearly 30-fold. But that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
This problem consumed Peter so much so that he founded CowTribe. This startup in rural Northern Ghana uses mobile technology to connect the few existing veterinarians in the system with farmers needing veterinary care for their animals.
“Pretty much every farmer we spoke with was struggling to find a qualified veterinarian and we realized that this is where technology can make a huge difference,” Peter says.
He drew on his savings and founded Cowtribe- a mobile platform that now enables thousand of farmers in remote areas to request for veterinary services using their cell phones.
The platform is built on four pillars — veterinarians, farmers, hotline, and an online vet pharmacy. The farmer is an essential part of the system, he/she initiates a request for an appointment, from then on, all pillars fall into place.
CowTribe is trying to connect its four pillars via mobile application and Call Center. A farmer accesses the platform by simply calling its hotline. A veterinarian will then answer his/her questions in what should be 5 minutes or less. If onsite visit is needed, CowTribe immediately connects the farmer to the nearest vet within a promised turn around time of 24hr or less.
“We launched our call center in the beginning of 2015 and since then we have more than 120 vets listed from Northern and Upper East Region alone . These vets are serving over 15,000 active subscribers. We are expanding and signing up farmers every month. Apart from that, we are boosting our mobile platform as well, which is gaining traction” he says.
He revealed that CowTribe has already received some recognition. The first was at the British Council Social Innovation Challenge in December 2016 in Ghana where it won as the second runners up. It was selected as one of the 25 finalists at the Pitch AgriHack 2016 tech startup competition last year. In April 2017, Cowtribe also placed second in the GAIA Agtech West Africa Challenge.
With the motivation towards such a noble cause and in the fast growing mobile penetration environment in Ghana, CowTribe is sure to make some serious inroads.
“By 2020 we want to be the Africa largest on-demand vet service platform,” he says. “We want to help 10 million farmers across Africa to access quality, affordable and reliable veterinary services for their animals”
Article written by:
Peter Awin, Co-founder, CowTribe
Phone contact: +233 203905658
Editorial Note: This is a promotional blog content for CowTribe, an innovative agtech startup venture in Ghana.
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