Kenya’s agricultural sector has over the years developed many excellent visions, policies, strategies and plans, but small-holder and medium-scale farmers have not yet achieved their full potential and growth targets. Many are left wondering why despite the presence of such good ideas the Kenyan agribusiness sector has not taken off. The answer is that the Kenyan agribusiness sector lacks an effective catalyst that will help small and medium scale farmers flourish by realizing their full potential. Farm and Trade Easy seeks to solve this by; smartly organizing these farmers, facilitating effective data collection and analysis for fast decision making, facilitating price transparency, enabling farmers boost their bargaining power when purchasing farm inputs through resource mobilization, improving their technical expertise, and access to markets.
Farm and Trade Easy is a program initiated by Advantech Consulting Ltd in partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is offered as a mobile application for both Smart and feature phones. Smartphone users can download the app for free from the Google Play store. It is supported by USSD technology for feature phones.
There are various trends undermining the productivity and competitiveness of Kenyan farmers:
- Poverty. Majority of the Kenyan farmers live in the rural areas. According to a 2014 research by the World Bank, close to 16 million Kenyans living in the rural areas are poor. Poverty affects farmers in the following ways:
- The rising costs of agricultural inputs such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides have been drastically increasing discouraging small holder farmers from investing in them. For example, in the period between 2007 and 2013 the price of farm inputs in Kenya has almost doubled.
- Farmers have been betrayed by financial institutions, middlemen and bad weather leading to lack of funds to invest in farms, very low returns and lack of morale. These farmers no longer consider farming as a viable business.
- Lack of pricing transparency. The middlemen are not only the buyers but also offer the price to the farmers creating room for exploitation.
- Lack of technical expertise. Lack of training on international standards and plasticises such as packaging and manufacturing hinder the farmers from selling their produce at higher prices.
- Poor infrastructure.
- Bad roads in rural Kenya, where most agriculture is practised, greatly increase transportation costs from the farms to the markets.
- Poor/ lack of storage facilities lead to crop destruction after harvest which greatly degrades the quality of the yields.
Farm and Trade Easy is aiming at addressing these issues by offering the following utilities:
- Better or smart organization through the periodic data collection and analysis
- Fast and efficient decision making with regards to what to plant, what not to plant, when to plant, which effort to increase/ reduce enabled by accurate data collection and analysis
- Easy financial management – the financial component of the system calculates sales, profits/ losses and also integrates with mobile money and bank accounts
- Convenient sale of products through mobile money
- Monthly analysis of transactions enabling farmers to forecast the demand of their products
- Source of pricing information
- Access to micro-loans from mobile money service providers
- Monthly analysis of the market prices enabling farmers to set the prices and margins
- Source of information regarding international standards/ technical assistance
- A platform that enables farmers to pool their resources so as to boost their buying power of farm inputs and bargaining power when selling their products by selling in bulk
- The groups of farmers can also pool their resources to afford better storage and packaging of their products so as to boost the quality
Farm and Trade Easy is a world class but highly deskilled innovation. It is a very user friendly application, the level of skill required to effectively utilize it has been drastically reduced. Boosting the competitiveness of farmers will enable their harvests attract high market prices.