Kilimo Bora: Service Design
A farming service model for economic prosperity.
For eight weeks I was immersed in the rural village of Birini, Coast, Kenya to gain a better understanding of community challenges and resources. Birini is a community where families largely live on less than $2 a day. I led a human-centered design project and teamed up with four local community members to develop asset-based business concepts. After two months, we launched one of our prototype business models named 'Kilimo Bora' - meaning better farming in Kiswahili. The farming service model projected a 1,800% increase in profits for clients.
Design Research, Team Facilitation, Sketches, Concept Development, Prototyping, Pitching. Design lead for an interdisciplinary team of 5 people.
We used methods from IDEO's Human-Centered Design Kit.
While living with a host family, I spent my first week living life as a local. The goal was to understand daily life in the village. Tasks included:
- Eating breakfast; chai with chapati.
- Fetching water from the dam.
- Plowing the maize fields with a cow.
- Eating lunch; beans with rice.
- Helping with house chores or hanging out with the youth.
- Eating dinner; vegetables with ugali.
- Helping the homestay kids with their homework.
- Going to church on Sundays.
For the next two weeks, a local community organizer (translator) and I began exploring the rest of the village to collect some research. We visited mud huts around the area to conduct interviews with the locals to learn more about community challenges and resources. I was also interested in observing the different skills, behaviors, and motivations of the locals.
After collecting enough research and conducting 15 interviews, I proceeded to form an interdisciplinary design team. I recruited people from my interview sessions who I believed were most passionate about making a difference in their community. The team included a teacher, village elder, comedian, and palm wine collector. Twice a week we would get together to have ideation and prototyping sessions.
After a few brainstorm sessions, two prototypes, and testing in between meetings - we decided to move forward with taking advantage of youthful energy and the zipit method. We saw great opportunity for the adoption of the zipit farming method to transform the economy of the village.
What is the Zipit Method?
A few kilometers away, there was a village that used a more efficient farming method they called the zipit method. The village learned how to apply this farming method from World Vision volunteers who came through the area years prior.
- Required no synthetic fertilizers.
- Drought resistant for 2-3 seasons.
- Yielded 4x the corn (in size and number).
Maize crops are the most popular crops in Birini but they aren't optimized to yield the most produce. Further, many youth in the village do not have the means to attend secondary school because of lack in funds. After completing farming duties, they tend to hang around the village to kill time. How might we create a business that helps the community overcome the challenges of extreme poverty?
Kilimo Bora's model aims to tackle the challenges of poverty by 2 main functions:
- Teach the youth the zipit method to be service providers. They would then go door-to-door to ask farmers for just a 2x2ft plot of land to trial the service for a small fee. (profit for the youth)
- After the clients see a higher yield in maize, they could reinvest those profits into more of the services until all of their crops are of the zipit method. In the meantime, while their crops are worked on by our employees, farmers can spend their time on other income generating activities. (profit for the client.)
We wrapped up the project by pitching the model to government officials - who promised to help fund and teach the team business skills for the enterprise to thrive.
We believed that by giving youth the opportunity to learn valuable skills we could empower them to make better informed decisions in improving their livelihood i.e. investing their money in education. Aside from poverty and education, we imagined this model tackling the challenges of hunger and environmental protection.