• AFA acting director general Kello Harsama said the application provides information to farmers.
• The current ratio of extension officers to farmers is 1:3,760, below the recommended 1:400.
Sugarcane farmers expect improved production following the launch of the 'Miwa Bora' app by the Sugar Directorate as part of efforts to revive the industry.
Agriculture and Food Authority acting director general Kello Harsama said the application is geared towards providing information to farmers on matters of sugar and its by-products.
With the current ratio of extension officers to farmers at 1:3,760, way below the recommended 1:400, he said the app has been developed to bridge the gap by providing farmers with the required information.
Harsama said during the launch in Kisumu on Thursday that farmers will have the ability to access approved and localised information conveniently from the sugar research institute through their mobile handsets.
“The government continues to invest significantly in digital infrastructure as a business enabler. Through apps such as Miwa Bora, stakeholders are able to connect digitally by bringing agricultural services closer to them. Many farmers can now access accurate information about growing their crops at their convenience,” Harsama said.
Farmers will be able to lodge requests to extension officers in real-time, giving stakeholders the assurance that the miller and the sugar directorate have received a request and will offer consistent and prompt support in response to farmers’ requests.
The app has been developed to allow farmers to use it even when they are offline.
Harsama said the sugar directorate has invested more than Sh1 million to develop the app as part of the directorate’s efforts to implement strategic initiatives aimed at addressing challenges facing the sugar industry.
The app was developed in line with findings from the 2020 Sugar Industry Stakeholders Task Force Report which recommends practical strategies to revitalise the industry.
The mobile application will enable the transfer of farming technical know-how and trends, including up-to-date content on sugar cane varieties, agronomic packages, value addition opportunities in the sugar industry, as well as market information, technology, and innovation.
He said the app will also provide customised support solutions to ensure farmers receive localised content based on their region-specific sugarcane varieties.
“This newly developed mobile app will relinquish the manual process of information management, streamline stakeholder service management and solve complex issues in a prompt and professional manner - all of which is in line with the government’s digital transformation agenda,” Harsama said.
Kenya’s sugar industry contributes 15 percent to Agricultural GDP and 2.75 percent of National GDP.
Additionally, the industry contributes to food security, employment creation by providing direct and indirect employment to 500,000 workers, regional development and improved livelihoods for more than eight million Kenyans.
The industry relies on approximately 270,000 small-scale sugarcane farmers spread across 14 counties including Bungoma, Busia, Kwale, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Siaya, Kisii, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Kakamega, Kericho, Nandi and Narok.
A survey carried out by the sugar directorate revealed that sugarcane farmers receive inadequate extension services due to inadequate personnel, unfavorable methods of delivering extension services, and poor knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) for sugarcane production among the extension officers.
Twenty nine per cent of farmers who were interviewed said they were not visited by extension officers while 53 per cent said they were visited once.
The sugar industry, has in the past, faced several challenges such as high cost of production, high debt portfolio for the state-owned mills, cane shortage, declining yields, low-value addition initiatives, inadequate research and extension, ageing equipment, reduced incomes to farmers and a weak regulatory framework.
“Some of these challenges, such as the high cost of production, persist to date. I however wish to reiterate the government’s commitment to their mitigation,” sugar directorate director Willis Audi said.
The app, he said, has come at a time when stakeholders have been demanding timeliness, flexibility and convenience in access to information within the sugarcane growing business.
Audi said the stakeholders will be able to connect digitally by bringing agricultural services closer to them. Many farmers will now get information about growing their crops at their convenience.
It will relinquish the manual process of information management, streamline stakeholder service management and solve complex issues in a prompt and professional manner.
Bungoma agriculture executive Mathews Wanjala said the app will significantly reduce cartels in the sugar industry. He said the sector has been dominated by cartels for many years.
“The app will help us share information within the industry effectively thereby locking out cartels,” Wanjala said.
West Kenya Sugar Factory (Kabras) farmer Fabian Muya said the application will help farmers mainly as a technical advisory tool.
“The messages in the app will include land preparation, planting, cane varieties for seed case, fertiliser, prevention of diseases and pest. It will also provide information harvesting and cane transportation to the factory,” Muya said.
Edited by CM