Cowtribe …using technology to help animal farmers

After experiencing a cow die helplessly from foot and mouth disease, Peter thought about what can be done to give good health to farm animals – which is the livelihood of many in the community where he was raised. Read on as he shares his story with the B&FT’s Inspiring Startups, how he and his partner, Alima, are using an App to achieve this.

Peter Awin was born in Bawku, in the Upper West Region of Ghana. From infancy he lived with his grandparents, because his father had to move out of town due to the nature of his job. His grandfather had lots of cows and young Peter had fond memories of shepherding the herd to graze and drink. He completed his secondary education at St. Charles Senior High School in Tamale and proceeded to the University of Development Studies, where he studied Development Studies.

After completing his national service, he had a job in Bolga where he spent six months – later getting another job offer in Tamale. Then, in less than a year, he again quit that job and got another one with the Ghana Education Service where he worked for six months.

After trying several jobs, he decided to start a business in 2012 – though not Cowtribe. It was an organisation that sought to promote an entrepreneurial spirit among high school and university students, by organising conferences and workshops for them.

Then in 2016, something happened that forever changed the course of his life.

The journey of Cowtribe

Once, Peter was on his motorbike; and while passing by a neighbour’s house, he was called by a woman to check on her cow that was terribly sick and helpless.  After seeing the condition of the cow, he rushed to go and look for a veterinary officer to come and treat it.

Meanwhile, the whole district had only one veterinary doctor, albeit there were many people who relied on animal farming for a living.

After a frantic search, he finally found the veterinary officer and begged him to follow him to save the dying cow, as he was already attending to someone.  But try as he did, the cow’s condition was beyond treatment and so it died. This affected him, and he constantly kept thinking about how he could help farmers keep healthy livestock. That was what motivated the establishment of Cowtribe.

Beyond the unavailability veterinary officers, one major problem that Peter observed about livestock farmers was the difficulty they faced in getting vaccines to take care of their animals.

As the saying goes: “like minds meet”. Peter met Alima Bawah, who at the time was a journalist interested in rural coverage. Alima is also a product of Wulugu Senior High School and a graduate from the University of Cape Coast. Peter told her about his business idea and she was also interested, so both decided to start it together.

They thought about creating an App that would bring onboard farmers, veterinary officers and vaccines. They called it the Shepherd App.

The Shepherd App and how it works

Knowing what the problems are, Peter and Alima created a platform that collects the details of each and every farm animal and alerts farmers when it is time to vaccinate them, and what kind of vaccine is needed.

They also made sure that they had procured the vaccines, so that when requested by farmers they can supply them.

Then they created another App for the veterinary doctors, one that prompts them on which animals need to be vaccinated and with what vaccine.

Now, through the App, over 200 veterinary officers have been made available to farmers in the Northern Region.

Currently, there are more than 29,000 people using the App. They have offices in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, which are actually their main market.

Vision

Cowtribe’s vision as a company is to ensure that all farm animals in the country, and in Africa, are healthy for consumption.

Marketing strategy

Cowtribe’s market is predominantly made up of farmers. So, the best approach that has proven helpful to them is to get in touch with the farmers directly. They organise community outreach programmes and demonstrate how the App works for the farmers to see, and educate them on the need to vaccinate their animals.

Challenges

For Peter, the biggest challenge he has ever come across is how to win the trust of the farmers. Most of the farmers are risk-averse and not ready to do business with people they do not know.

Another challenge is bureaucracies involved in doing business with government. Because Cowtribe’s nature of business involves partnering district assemblies and other state authorities, the company has to deal with a lot of red-tape before simple transactions are effected.

Also, getting the right team to work with has not been easy. There is a need for technical men for the App, but they can’t be found at the present location of the business—Tamale. Hence, he has to frequent Accra to find competent people for the job.

How government can support

Peter says government should create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

“An enabling environment means the macro-economy must be strong so that businesses can access loans from the banks at lower interest rates than we have. That is what we want—an enabling environment.”

Visit Cowtribe.com to see how the service works.