Eight projects advancing financial inclusion, access to reliable information for smallholder farmers, and legal rights to land ownership for marginalized communities are the recipients of Common Voice Kiswahili grants totaling USD $400,000


This is the standard ritual. A local women's group gathers on a Sunday afternoon. Steaming hot tea is poured into cups, Mandazis (small fried cakes) are passed around and greetings with beaming laughter fill the air. Everyone settles — then the money talks begin. This is a women’s chama meeting.

Chamas are informal, small group table-banking cooperatives. The name varies in different African countries, but the objective is the same — pooling resources to fund particular goals. Chamas accomplished what many financial institutions couldn’t: easy access to loans, a safe space for money pooling and sharing ideas, all done in the local language.

Language is a vital and powerful tool in providing equitable access to information. Mozilla’s Common Voice project is responding to this need by supporting the development of inclusive voice-enabled technologies for all groups and communities. And now, important work such as record keeping/management of Chamas, accessing credible and reliable weather updates, monitoring livestock diseases, acquiring skills across the agricultural value chains, and defending women’s rights to land ownership, will be voice-enabled.

Common Voice has awarded eight projects each USD $50,000, leveraging the Kiswahili language and voice technology to increase social and economic opportunities for marginalized groups in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Kiswahili-speaking Democratic Republic of Congo.

These grants are supported by the Gates Foundation in collaboration with the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and GIZ, as a response to a gender conscious and community centered approach to tech development. Ultimately, it advances the use of open-source voice data for products that support community participation and engagement.

Infusing people’s languages into the technology we build is a critical step towards creating technologies that center communities of end users. These projects have been selected for their creative solutions touching core, community-based social-economic interventions. We are very excited by this cohort of awardees and the important work they are about to undertake.

Chenai Chair, Senior Program Officer - Africa Innovation Mozilla

Projects were chosen by a selection committee composed of Mozilla staff and Nairobi-based external consultant, Charlene Migwe- Kagume. Kagume is the Regional Program Lead at Development Gateway, focused on designing and coordinating effective data projects in various sectors.

Says Charlene Migwe - Kagume, “We were particularly eager to understand how the applicants would innovatively design feasible solutions which address existing farmer priorities and identified gaps in the agriculture value chain. The selected eight projects presented very compelling proposals that prioritized tangible needs and relevant challenges faced in the regions.”

Meet the awardees:

A group of women seated having a conversation.

ChamaChat by Ujuzi Craft LTD | Kenya

A Chama management system with a chatbot that interacts with members and gives voice replies in Kiswahili via SMS and Whatsapp. It connects to the group Payment API, ie M-Pesa API. Members can interact with the Chama admin bot on a variety of functions, including instance check balance, loan requests and receiving transaction statements.

A woman holds an Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato at a farm

Kiazi Bora by Sustain Earth's Environment Africa | Tanzania

Kiazi Bora, “Quality Potatoes’’ in Swahili, uses a voice enabled application that informs vulnerable women living in rural areas and marginalized communities of Tanzania on the nutritional values of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP), farming skills for better yields, and detailed market availability for raw or processed OFSP food products, all through a voice data set app.

An image of an old and broken mobile phone

Wezesha na Kabambe by University of Westminster, U.K | Moi University, Kenya | Technical University of Kenya | Western Michigan University, USA.

A mobile enabled Swahili audio chatbot not reliant on internet connectivity. It is developed in collaboration with rural small-holder women farmers in Kenya as an alternative source for agricultural information. Using the Mozilla Swahili data sets, the mobile-enabled chatbot can be used on both feature phones (kabambes) and smartphones by rural smallholder farmers. The interactive Swahili chatbot is powered by a database of frequently asked questions from smallholder women farmers, a marginalized and digitally excluded group. It is inspired by existing familiarity, adoption, and acceptance of mobile technologies in rural areas in Kenya.

An image of two men treating a sick cow

LivHealth Kiswahili Corpus by Badili Innovations | Kenya

LivHealth Kiswahili Corpus aims to empower local communities to correctly identify livestock syndromes and get timely interventions from qualified livestock practitioners. Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the project will build Kiswahili text-to-speech models for disseminating disease information to marginalized communities. Working closely with their partner, One Health Center in Africa (OHRECA) based at ILRI, they will enhance the functionality of the LivHealth system to enable local communities easy access to disease information on demand and in Kiswahili.

An image of two men looking at a mobile device while having a conversation

Imarika by Strathmore University | Kenya

Imarika is a conversational chatbot offering digital climate advisory services in English and Swahili that will support smallholder farmers to adapt to changing weather patterns. The project aims to address the vulnerability of farmers to weather unpredictability due to the lack of accessible, reliable, and localized weather forecasts. Access to weather information is highly variable across sub-Saharan Africa and is usually limited to low-accuracy national or regional forecasts broadcast on radio and/or TV. The project specifically hopes to serve smallholder farmers who often have limited access to localized climate advisory services due to barriers such as slow technology penetration or digital illiteracy.

A logo image containing a microphone

Paza Sauti by Tech Innovators Network Ltd | Kenya

The project is developing a chatbot and an interactive voice response service that will provide voice-enabled services in the domain of business registration and raise awareness about the use of collateral (security) to access credit in Kenya. The main objective is to increase financial literacy around moveable properties as collateral, particularly for women in business, and in particular agriculture, for purposes of accessing credit. Although there has been an increase in the ease of getting credit, most members of the population are still unaware of their capability to access further credit as a result of using moveable properties as collateral. This project will be a continuation of an already ongoing collaboration with the Business Registration Service - BRS (State Corporation) in Kenya in the domain of financial inclusion, which serves the Kenya public.

A logo image of the organisation, illustrating text and voice recognition features

Kiswahili Text and Voice Recognition Platform (KTVRP) for Agricultural Advisory and Financial Services for Smallholder Farmers by Duniacom Group, LLC| Tanzania / United States

A majority of smallholder farmers in Tanzania are only able to communicate through the Kiswahili spoken language and its dialects. A text and voice-based platform made available in the language of the underserved (i.e., Kiswahili) would be key to wide access, adoption, and usage of digital agricultural advisory and financial services in Tanzania. The objective is to develop a text and voice recognition platform that will offer smallholder farmers in the Tanzanian Maize Value Chain personalized digital financial and non-financial automated services based on location, agro-ecological zones, and crop cycle. Based on gender-disaggregated data from the pilot phase, it is anticipated that the majority of participants will be women.

A logo image of the organisation

Haki des femmes by Core23Lab | Democratic Republic of Congo

Haki will leverage voice technology to provide access to legal information and support for women in Katanga and Lualaba provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo to ensure they have the right to access, use, inherit, control, and own land. Majority of women in DRC often lose their access to land after the passing of a loved one or husband due to lack of knowledge of land rights. This solution will help women to access information and legal support in securing their land rights in Kiswahili.