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Elevating Farmers in KenyaAfrican agricultural technology (agri-tech) services bring in $2.6 billion every year. Kenyan agri-tech is a large piece of Africa’s agri-tech industry, accounting for 25% of all startups. Agri-tech companies in Kenya create websites and mobile applications with the hope of elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty by allowing them to showcase their products and access information databases. Mobile applications and virtual marketplace platforms also boost market accessibility for farmers in Kenya.

Agriculture in Kenya

More than 25% of the global workforce works in the agriculture sector. In Kenya, agricultural employment accounts for more than 40% of the population. Additionally, agriculture comprises 33% of Kenya’s GDP. Although agriculture is a major economic sector, in Kenya the industry traditionally consists of older and smallholder farmers. Socially, Kenyans see farming as lackluster and dirty. Many young people prefer to turn to education rather than farming but digitalization in the agriculture industry is drawing in younger people.

It is important for younger Kenyans to enter the agricultural industry because their experience with technology will advance the market. What Kenyans saw as an industry for the older generation is transforming into a technologically advanced industry with the help of young adults. Engaging young people through social media and other mobile applications will rejuvenate and modernize agriculture in Kenya. Additionally, because many farmers in Kenya are smallholders, people who own small-scale farming operations, the creation of mobile applications allows farmers to feasibly access new markets via smartphone or computer without relying on brokerages or a middle-man, elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty.

4 Agri-Tech Applications Transforming Agriculture in Kenya

  1. Mkulima Young: Created by Joseph Macharia, a Kenyan farmer, Mkulima Young’s website connects farmers and potential buyers throughout East Africa. The platform is enhancing trade throughout the region. Using the application, Kenyans can feasibly buy and sell agricultural products. On the platform’s website’s homepage, Mkulima Young features young farmers’ selfies with their products, the latest products its members uploaded to the site and requests from buyers. Another page on the site includes a virtual market that allows farmers in Kenya to showcase and sell their cash crops, flowers, livestock and other agriculture products. Mkulima Young’s virtual marketplace gives users access to data to help understand trend projections and market insights.
  2. Twiga Foods Ltd: Beginning in 2014, Twiga sources products from Kenyan farmers and food manufacturers for registered vendors to sell, in turn providing adequate market security for farmers and vendors. After sourcing fresh fruits and vegetables from Kenyan farmers, Twiga Foods brings produce to Kenya’s urban centers. Currently, more than 4,000 suppliers and more than 35,000 vendors utilize Twiga’s marketplace platform. Twiga prides itself on transparency and efficient delivery of quality products. The platform offers smallholder farmers reassurance that their products will be profitable. Twiga Foods makes selling and buying Kenyan produce easier for average Kenyan farmers and vendors through its transparency and a guaranteed market.
  3. DigiCow: Founded by tech start-up Farmingtech Solutions, which specializes in agricultural data management, DigiCow provides smallholder farmers with farming management services. With DigiCow’s services, farmers in Kenya can reach data-based conclusions rather than guessing and estimating results, which was common practice before applications like DigiCow. The application enables its users to make data-driven decisions. Specific tools the application offers are, but are not limited to, virtual training, message boards for farmers to connect with each other, digital tracking of feeding, insemination and milking, notifications for vital dates and analyzed reports. April 2019 marked a notable milestone for DigiCow. The World Bank recognized the Farmingtech Solutions team as Kenya’s most inventive Agri-tech by awarding DigiCow the winner of the Disruptive Agricultural Technologies challenge. With the DigiCow application, farmers can now keep data sets and make educated decisions.
  4. DigiFarm: Founded by Safaricom, a telecommunication firm in Kenya, DigiFarm allows farmers to connect directly with bulk produce buyers, credit providers and cheaper agronomic materials. DigiFarm arranges deals with buyers for small farmers. These deals are more beneficial than the deals farmers use to make with traditional brokers. More than 40,000 farmers utilize the application. The app allows smallholder farmers to analyze the market of their produce. Additional services DigiFarm provides its users are insurance for weather-related incidents, loss management and recommendations on how to increase yields. Projections estimate that if success continues, DigiFarm will represent 10% of annual ag-business affairs in Kenya. Before DigiFarm’s assistance many farmers could not afford supplies but with DigiFarm’s help, many small farmers can now run successful operations.

How Agri-Tech Alleviates Poverty in Kenya

The World Bank states that an increase in agriculture technology will assist Kenya in meeting its rising food demand, whilst elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty. As smaller farmers utilize more agri-tech, their production will increase leading to a rise in income for themselves and also a rise in food production for the country. Increasing agriculture productivity through agricultural technology will not only increase food supply but will also increase the number of jobs available in both the agriculture and technology sectors.

These agricultural technology applications are a game-changer for smallholder Kenyan farmers. They have the potential to create economic growth in the agriculture and technology industry. The creation of virtual marketplaces and agri-tech platforms will ultimately lead to prosperity in Kenya.

– Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Farmers in KenyaSmallholder farmers in Kenya are overwhelmingly denied access to traditional financial services, stunting the growth of the country’s agricultural industry. FarmDrive is an innovative startup that connects this unbanked population to new capital flows. So far, FarmDrive has facilitated 400 loans that amount to over $125,000.

There are 50 million smallholder farmers in Kenya, but less than 10 percent of this population has their economic needs fulfilled by traditional lenders. The agricultural sector makes up 32 percent of Africa’s GDP and employs 65 percent of its population, but less than 1 percent of bank lending goes to agriculture. Worldwide, there is an estimated $450 billion agricultural lending gap.

African smallholder farmers face barriers to traditional lending because they are labeled high-risk borrowers by financial institutions. Traditional banks use credit scores and bank statements to determine a loan applicant’s riskiness. However, the average farmer in Africa cultivates fewer than five acres of land and owns no collateral or financial records.

Limited credit availability leaves this population unable to improve their farming practices. Without access to capital, these farmers must forgo yield-increasing technology like fertilizer or irrigation systems.

FarmDrive combats this lack of financial visibility by calculating alternative credit scores for Kenyan smallholder farmers. The startup requires users to input their expenses, revenue and yield via SMS and creates a platform for farmers to record business activity. FarmDrive then uses a complex algorithm to combine individual financial information with additional factors like the climate in the farmer’s region. These outside inputs both verify farmer’s self-reported information and provide context for these records. For example, farmers living within arid zones will likely have smaller crop yields.

By accruing farmer data, FarmDrive eliminates some of the risk for banks. FarmDrive has partnered with African financial firms who accept their alternative credit scores and determine appropriate loans for smallholder farmers. Lending institutions thus consider both the self-reported financial history of farmers as well as exogenous variables that will affect their crop yields.

To gain access to remote farmers, FarmDrive depends on aid organizations, like USAID, and private firms that operate in the agricultural industry. FarmDrive is expanding its data collection through new partnerships with Planet, a satellite company, and The Impact Lab, a data analytics group, to potentially incorporate climate information gathered via satellite imagery into its algorithm.

Though the startup operates solely in Kenya, the founders would ultimately like to serve all 450 million smallholder farmers and 500 financial institutions in Africa. By linking unbanked farmers to needed capital, FarmDrive has the potential to revitalize Africa’s agricultural industry.

Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr