Angela Mwangi and Co-Shamba Project
Number of Hours Pledged: 500
SDG Supported: #13 Climate Action
Summary: Helping out with her family’s agribusiness company in Nairobi, Angela Njeri Mwangi developed a keen understanding of the challenges faced by domestic farmers. So when she was looking for a way to apply her design skills to do something meaningful in her community—and for her country—she naturally gravitated to agriculture. The sector makes up one-third of Kenya’s GDP and employs more than 70 percent of its rural population. But many young people don’t see its full potential.
Looking to change that perception while also making them aware of best practices to manage their farms, Mwangi came up with her big idea: Co-Shamba. The platform “merges technology and agriculture to help smallholder farmers increase efficiencies and move from subsistence farming to farming for profit.” The name comes from combining the Swahili word shamba, which means farming or cultivated land, with the idea of “communicating, collaborating, co-learning,” she explains.
Now, as part of her pledge to PMI’s Hours for Impact program, Mwangi is the one collaborating to turn her agtech concept into reality: helping build more resilient, climate-smart and competitive food systems.
Feeding Ground for Innovation
Mwangi was first connected with PMI by her father, who had been working with the PMI Kenya Chapter to support his business. Then a PMI volunteer told him about the PMI Africa Youthquake Challenge, which invited young professionals ages 18 to 25 to pitch unconventional project ideas to drive technological, economic or societal advancements in Africa.
“My father said to me, ‘Try this. I believe in you.’ So I did,” says Mwangi, whose Co-Shamba project went on to win the 2020 competition.
Today, Mwangi is working with PMI volunteers to create the low-code agtech platform. Her objectives, which align with UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action), include:
- Helping rural farmers under the age of 35 increase their income by using productive, climate-smart agricultural practices
- Identifying and scaling best practice agtech models
- Improving software that provides financial information and market access
“I hope to encourage youth to see that they can create wealth without having to work for a corporation, that they can earn money without just sitting in front of a laptop,” she says. “Food is necessary for life, and it will always bring an income if you do it right.”
With the Co-Shamba project still in its conceptual stage, Mwangi is staring down many of the common challenges faced by young entrepreneurs, including getting buy-in from her target market: Kenyan farmers.
To make the platform engaging for users, Mwangi sought guidance from Otema Yirenkyi, PMI’s former VP of Global Engagement, now an area VP at Salesforce. One shift to add relevancy? Her plan for Co-Shamba now incorporates Indigenous practices, such as village circles and crop rotation, as well as a community-based structure that includes a lead farmer to disseminate information.
Mwangi is also exploring solutions for providing reliable internet access—which can be a challenge in rural areas. Although Kenya has one of the highest internet penetrations in Africa, more than half of the population remains without. And she points out that many Kenyans still use so-called brick phones, those early-model mobiles that don’t have internet access. Solving for those challenges may mean investigating different options or even rethinking the delivery model.
“The platform does not necessarily have to be a smartphone with an app,” Mwangi explains. “Perhaps we can have a phone code they could use. There are so many possibilities.”
Through these challenges, she credits the PMI Kenya Chapter and her Hours for Impact pledge for helping drive Co-Shamba’s development over the past two years. While it hasn’t been easy “keeping up the momentum in moving from conceptualization to actualization,” Mwangi remains laser-focused on her mission to reach half a billion young Africans.
Since the Youthquake Challenge, Co-Shamba has been featured at the Making Global Goals Local Business–Africa forum, put on by the UN Global Compact, of which PMI is a member. And most recently, Mwangi created a 10-minute spotlight video on her project that aired at the PMI Africa Conference 2022. The video will be used to generate engagement and mobilize support for the project from tech organizations, researchers, partners and investors.
“This is Africa, and there is so much opportunity to advance things,” Mwangi says. “I’m the next generation and am a part of this very young country. We as young people are the pioneers of the changes we want to live in and want to see for our children and grandkids.”