Over 225 million pastoralists across Africa rely on livestock as their primary source of economic, social, and physical well-being. With dramatic changes in climate and land use, finding pasture within traditional grazing areas has become high-risk and resource intensive. On average, we found that pastoralists are losing a quarter of their herds each year, which can have devastating impacts on their livelihood stability and even survival.
PCI is revolutionizing the way pastoralists find pasture and water for their animals using the power of satellite and mobile technology. The AfriScout mobile application displays current water and vegetation conditions on localized grazing maps, enabling pastoralists to make more accurate and cost-effective migration decisions, improve pasture management and collaboration, reduce the risk of herd loss, and ultimately transform their lives.
Mission and Vision
PCI’s goal is to help transform the lives of 20 million of the poorest and most vulnerable people by 2020. A life transformed is a life that has benefitted from new knowledge, skills, services and opportunities in such a way that the person’s ability to positively influence his/her own life, and the lives of those around them, has been profoundly altered. The intended impact of AfriScout therefore is to significantly improve pastoral resilience and help transform their lives by specifically reducing the burden of scouting and the risk of animal mortality, while also helping to improve pasture management, livestock condition, and community collaboration.
The AfriScout app was designed for pastoralists. We provide specific, local information that complements and respects existing community structures and decision-making processes. The app design and visual language are for anyone with any level of experience with technology. The map information is accurate and available, despite network, energy, data, and battery constraints.
AfriScout app subscribers are able to assess up-to-date vegetation conditions within their grazing areas using the live map display. They can also use the map to locate existing surface water so that during dry seasons they can find ponds and streams that have not dried up. By tapping on a desired location on the map, the app will calculate distance. They can share grazing hazards with other users in their area by posting geolocated alerts on things like animal disease outbreaks, predators, conflicts, or restricted grazing areas. Pastoralists can also look at previous vegetation updates from past months to analyze changes over seasons.
In partnership with USAID and Fordham University, PCI is conducting a rigorous impact evaluation in Ethiopia and Tanzania to understand the outcomes and impacts of the vegetation maps on beneficiaries. The key outcome indicators are: 1) Percent of respondents who reported maps as a source of information for decision‐making; 2) Percent change in herd loss; 3) USD value of herd loss; 4) USD value of milk production; and 5) Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR). A randomized control trial (RCT) methodology is being used in Ethiopia across seven randomly assigned intervention woredas paired with seven geographically separate control woredas. In Tanzania, a case-control methodology is being used with two intervention districts and one control district. Data is being collected at baseline, midterm and endline points and impact will be analyzed using difference-in-difference to look at change over time and between control and intervention communities in each country. Baseline data was collected in October 2015 and midterm data was collected in January/April 2017 and recently analyzed for a midterm report. After only one year of map distribution, 35% of the population in the intervention districts of Tanzania reported seeing and using the maps, while 26% did in Ethiopia. Among those who use the maps, 99% said they would recommend the map to a friend; 50% in Tanzania and 77% in Ethiopia reported making different decisions this year based on the maps; and after only one dry season, 35% in Tanzania and 20% in Ethiopia reported that the maps have become their most important source of information for decision-making – clearly demonstrating the value of the maps to pastoralists. Herd loss reductions and BCR will be evaluated at endline.
Planned Goals and Milestones
To sustainably manage and maintain the mobile app service and effectively scale it to millions of pastoralists in Africa, PCI has established AfriScout LLC as a subsidiary social enterprise. Assisted by external experts over the past year, PCI explored app monetization models, market readiness, possible risks, and growth potential to build a robust business model which has evolved into AfriScout today. The strong evidence that the paper maps (unpaid for) have provided significant monetary and perceived value to those who have received them led PCI to form a direct revenue or B2C principle business model. After a 6-month free trial, users will pay a fixed annual subscription fee via mobile money. Combined with the rapid increase of mobile broadband coverage and smart phone penetration in Africa, PCI intends to make AfriScout a sustainable enterprise within the next five years.
We plan to launch the AfriScout mobile app in 16 mapped areas by 2019, with an estimated pastoral population coverage of 1.9 million. Based on the availability of smartphones in the target market, our goal is to have 10,000 households as paying subscribers in the 16 areas with a beneficiary population of 75,000 within one year of launch. Since AfriScout is providing some of the first relevant digital content to pastoralists, our objective is to equip key village members in each community we serve with basic digital skills and AfriScout app training to bridge the digital divide and create community-level AfriScout ambassadors. Our key business objectives to achieve these goals in the next year are to finish mapping in Kenya, establish the pricing structure and payment channel, recruit and train community marketers and ambassadors, continue app maintenance and testing, and create key partnerships with Mobile Network Operators and relevant market actors.