The Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF), whose business development manager, Katie Messick Maddox, earned her Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) in 2011, won a Google Impact Challenge award on Thursday for its WeFarm peer-to-peer communications network. The network was designed to enable knowledge sharing between smallholder farmers worldwide to help them improve their livelihoods.
The Google Impact Challenge supports charities that are using technology to tackle problems and transform lives around the world. WeFarm was one of four projects selected from among 10 finalists in the United Kingdom to receive £500,000 and support from Google. The additional six finalists received £200,000.
“We are beyond thrilled about this opportunity and are honored to have been selected among such great finalists,” Maddox said (pictured first row, far left). “With [Google’s] support and the £500,000 award, we will empower millions of smallholders with the information needed to take action, improve farming practices, lift families and communities out of poverty, and improve food security globally.”
WeFarm uses basic mobile phones to allow farmers to share ideas and crowdsource innovative solutions across continents and languages. The technology helped one farmer in Peru, who could no longer afford fertilizer, to receive a fully translated recipe from a Kenyan farmer for a low-cost organic alternative.
Sir Richard Branson, English business magnate and founder of Virgin Group, announced the winning projects via Google Hangouts.
“All 10 finalists have shown the UK and international nonprofit community that the adoption of tech innovation can drive massive, global change that can transform the lives of millions of vulnerable people and species the world over,” he said.
CPF is a UK-registered charity that works with approximately 280,000 smallholder tea, coffee and cocoa farmers and their organizations across 12 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. The organization designed and piloted the WeFarm project from 2010 to 2013.
The other two winners selected by the panel of judges were Centrepoint for its data analytics to keep young people off the streets, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew for its crowdsourcing data to help prevent mosquito-borne diseases. The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) received the people’s choice award for its smart glasses to improve life for people with sight loss.