KENYA IN 2020

Apps advise farmers on weather, prices, loans

Digital innovation transformed how farmers do their business

In Summary

• More than 90 per cent of the market for digital services supporting African small-holder farmers remains untapped.

• 25 per cent of Africa's agri-tech start-ups are in Kenya.

 

Fred Nyambare in charge of digital farming and Yara East Africa manager William Ngeno explain to Agriculture CECs how to access a farm weather app on their phones in Embu on August 9.
SMART FARMING: Fred Nyambare in charge of digital farming and Yara East Africa manager William Ngeno explain to Agriculture CECs how to access a farm weather app on their phones in Embu on August 9.
Image: COURTESY
A farmer with his mobile phone and banana at his organic farm.
FARMING TECH: A farmer with his mobile phone and banana at his organic farm.
Image: SHUTTERS STOCK

From digital advisories on weather and planting information to marketing of produce and accessing financial and insurance services, agriculture in Kenya is coming of age. 

Digital services have changed the way farmers do business as they are able to access information via mobile or smartphone applications.

The Food and Agricultural Organization says innovation is a life-changing approach where some see opportunities while others see problems.

“Digital innovation is transforming ideas into values, creating employment and new business. With the new challenge in technologies, we need to address these opportunities in terms of fighting hunger, reducing poverty, increasing resilience and improving productivity in agriculture, ” says Samuel Varas, FAO chief information officer.

Andrew Tuimur, Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary, says the ministry is integrating digital technology, access to and interpretation of the use of data-based information as the country enters the Third Industrial Revolution.

He says the government in partnership with World Bank recently launched the One Million Farmers platform aimed at scaling up disruptive digital technologies in Kenyan agriculture.

“The idea is to ensure access to extension services, finance, market and a data-driven application. This will also help in fast-tracking the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy using some of these technologies. This is a 10-year national strategy in which the Big Four Agenda is embedded,” Tuimur says.

This was launched by the World Bank in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, Korean Trust Fund, Mercy Corps and UN-SDGs Partnership Platform.

The platform has identified four key categories including productivity, market linkages, financial inclusion and data analytics.

Tuimur says the technologies will also be targeting the youth who are the major users.

Many uses: agro-weather analytics, pest, disease trends, food reserves early warning for price inflation. 
Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga

Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga says Kenya is at the forefront of technology adoption in Africa with 95 per cent mobile penetration.

There are 36 million internet subscriptions and today, 25 per cent of Africa's agri-tech start-ups are in the country.

Boga says the ministry has prioritised a number of digital use cases to champion until 2023. They include accelerating farmer registration and targeting eligible farmers with e-incentives, using digital tools and analytics to improve tracking and payment direct to providers.

“Improve farmer practices by providing farmers with customised e-extension that incorporates current and predictive data such as agro-weather analytics, pest and disease trends and prices. Monitor emergency food reserve stocks with digital tools to determine the future quantity of stock to buy. Make more dynamic trade and price stability decisions using early warning system for food price inflation among others,” he says.

Some of the digital platforms in Kenya include Digi-Cow that links smallholder farmers to veterinary officers, artificial insemination services and feeds.

Precision agriculture for development targets large-scale farmers with personalised agricultural advice through their mobile phones.

M-Shamba, a digital extension platform, uses interactive voice response services to explain and transfer agricultural technologies to smallholder farmers.

TruTrade Africa uses cloud-based mobile and online applications to provide smallholder farmers with linkage to market and fair prices for their produce.

Acre Africa links farmers to crops, livestock and industry insurance products to shield then against unpredictable weather.

OneAcre Fund provides inputs to farmers and gives them information on what they need to know.

Ujuzi Kilimo, a real-time soil testing service, uses technology to provide precise and actionable information to farmers using sensors and mobile technology.

E-voucher system is a technology that the ministry will be using to help farmers access government subsidised fertiliser through the agrovets in the coming long rains season in 2020.

(Edited by H. Makori)