Moses Shitote scrolled his iPad busily as he smiled giving one an impression that he was socialising on Facebook or Twitter as many other young people nowadays.
But that was not the case with the 27-year-old computer science student at the University of Eldoret. Shitote was checking MtiCalc, an application he has developed with fellow students, to help tree farmers do basic calculation that include the cost of trees to maximise profit.
The app, developed by the students in Computer Science and Forestry and Wood Science departments in collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland, has been tried in the field among tree farmers in Uasin Gishu County and western region.
Prof Balonzi Kirongo Bekuta, the Head of Department, Forestry and Wood Science at the University of Eldoret, says most farmers currently are planting eucalyptus trees for pole production.
“However, the business is not very good because of poor prices that farmers get and that is why we decided to come up with this application.”
Some farmers are selling a pole that could fetch Sh4,000 for Sh1,500.
INPUT THEIR NAME
To use the app, one needs a smartphone where they will input their name, location and number of trees to be sold.
The app using the calculation based on a single tree will automatically give the volume and how much money a farmer should get.
“It estimates the tree height, the diameter and from the calculation, the farmer knows the price to sell when he goes to the market.”
Pamela Senelwa, 41, a mother of four from Nangili who started growing trees in 2006, is among those who have benefitted from the app.
From the test with the students on her farm in Nangili, Senelwa has able to estimate the actual price of her trees.
“The 800 trees have matured and after we calculated the height, diameters and volume, I expect to get Sh3.2 million at a price of Sh4,000 each. The middlemen were not even offering me half the price,” said Senelwa.
“Now when the middlemen come, I will be able to tell them my price and negotiate based on my calculation. But we still have to grapple with the reality of demand and supply in the market, which dictates prices,” she added.
TWO MORE APPLICATIONS
The students have further developed two more applications namely Eucalypts and EntVenture to promote forestry education and natural resource conservation.
Eucalypts app is a story-based game about Mafanikio, who is living in a rural village. He remembers how beautiful the village once used to look before the trees were cut down.
Mafanikio decides to call a meeting of the villagers to engage in tree planting to improve the environment and livelihood of the people in the village.
The game is played by giving correct answers to a series of questions and puzzles on forestry issues in Kenya.
EntVenture app, on the other hand, provides information about forestry practices and benefits from the forest. It is also a game that is played by giving correct answers to a series of questions and puzzles on forestry issues.