In Kenya, the agricultural sector contributes 26 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) directly and a further 27 percent through manufacturing, distribution and service sectors annually.
The sector employs over 80 percent of Kenya’s rural workforce and provides 18 percent of formal employment, with the crops, livestock and fisheries sub-sectors being the main machineries of the sector by contributing 72 percent, 18 percent and 3 percent of agricultural GDP respectively.
The country’s Vision 2030 also recognises the significance of the sector towards achieving an average GDP growth rate of about 10 percent per year up to the year 2030.
Mobile technology has taken root and is now being used to improve smallholder farming across the country. This is meant to improve operations, reduce weather-related and post-harvest losses.
In 2017, Safaricom in collaboration with several partners ventured into agriculture by developing a product aimed at facilitating delivery of solutions to farmers countrywide dubbed DigiFarm.
The M-Agriculture product is aimed at addressing the inadequacies experienced by most smallholder farmers in different parts of the country, by providing solutions that would help them turn their agricultural activities into profitable ventures.
Fredrick Kiio, Safaricom head of M-Agri business speaks about the revolutionary product with BL magazine. Excerpts:
BL: Tell us about DigiFarm and what it entails?
Kiio : DigiFarm is an integrated mobile platform that offers farmers convenient, one-stop access to a suite of information and financial services, including discounted products, customised information on farming best practices, access to credit and other financial facilities and access to market. DigiFarm helps agribusinesses and small holding farmers share information and transact.
The vision of DigiFarm is to make the small holder farmer wealthier from the same piece of land by addressing the gaps below:
- Knowledge on best farming practices;
- Quality inputs;
- Access to financial services – credit and insurance;
- Access to markets.
BL: DigiFarm has been termed as one key growth frontiers for Safaricom, how is the uptake so far?
Kioo: DigiFarm has been able to acquire over 1 million farmers on the platform with 300,000 being active for thirty days.
DigiFarm has opened up 144 depots around the country to enable farmers to access quality inputs.
BL: How are you collaborating with county governments to ensure the success of this service?
Kioo: The counties are the enabling partners of DigiFarm. They help to drive adoption of DigiFarm by their residents in the county since they have cultivated their trust.
BL: You recently held an event in Makueni County which also signaled a new chapter for Sunflower farmers, tell us how this came about and the partnerships you have to support farmers.
Kioo: The partnership with Makueni County government began with the goodwill of the county’s top leadership.
The Governor together with his leadership helped in mobilizing farmers and selling the story of DigiFarm to them. This led to great adoption with more than 240,000 farmers registering in the platform. When DigiFarm partnered with Bidco to pilot the buyer driven model, Makueni County was the ideal county to kick off the model.
BL: DigiFarm has adopted a buyer driven model, what does it entail and how is it expected to help farmers?
Kioo :Buyer driven model seeks to drive change in the small holder farmers’ behaviour and produce with the end market in mind. This enables the farmer to produce with a comfortable level of certainty since a minimum guaranteed price is communicated before planting. In addition the farmer gets:
- Soil testing services;
- Check off loan for inputs required;
- Yield insurance on the farm;
- Extension services through DigiFarm village advisers;
- Ready market for their produce.
BL: Apart from Makueni and Bomet, inwhich other regions will you implement this model?
Kioo: Since this is a buyer led model, DigiFarm is guided by the buyers on which regions to produce specific value chains. The vision of DigiFarm is to implement the model in all counties.
Currently, the buyer led model is being implemented in the following regions:
- Homabay – soya;
- Migori – sweet potatoes and sunflower;
- Bungoma – sorghum;
- ElgeyoMarakwet – potatoes;
- Makueni – green grams;
- Nyeri – broccoli, snow peas and snap peas;
- Meru – avocado;
- TharakaNithi – sunflower.
BL: How is DigiFarm expected to change the agriculture sector in the coming years?
Kioo: DigiFarm is expected to transform the small holder farmers by enabling them to produce optimally and make farming a profitable business. This will ensure we have food security in Kenya , besides meeting the opportunity of Africa to feed the world.