New digital tool to give farmers valuable market, price information – Branding Voice

NAIROBI, KENYA: Kevin Murumba has been practicing subsistence farming together with his parents in Rift Valley since his early days.

One consistent problem he noticed as a village farmer was the lack of useful information on appropriate seeds, time to plant and linkages to market which in most cases left farmers in the hands of exploitative middlemen.

When he joined Nairobi University as a computer science student, he teamed up with colleagues with almost similar experience to help farmers get the most from their hard work.

Through a system also known as Shambaplus.xyz, they are now able to accurately inform farmers on what to plant in which month per region and offer them the best price through linkage to highest bidder.

“For many low-volume Kenyan farmers, the only source of information about the market rate for crops comes from the very people who are trying to buy them. The lack of pricing transparency means that farmers don’t always get the best deal,” he says.

“Shambaplus.xyz seeks to solve this by providing up-to-date market prices, we have created a segment where farmers after logging in can post what they have and get buyers bidding for their produce, this has resulted into them getting the best prices,” he says in an interview.

Through a partnership with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, and Kenya’s Open Data, they have been able to collect and integrate information into the system to help farmers know what to plant and in which area.

After logging into the system, a farmer selects a region where he wants to farm and also feeds in the month. The system automatically pulls suitable crops for that month and get details on rainfall patterns through to the harvesting period.

In an interview on the sidelines of 2016 Nairobi Trade Fair he says the technology is targeting all farmers as they are working on a USSD which allows one to send queries without necessarily logging into the internet.

By January 2016, mobile phone penetration in Kenya hit 88 per cent making the platform popular for reaching out to many with viable solutions.

Similar application also known as M-Farm allows farmers to SMS the number 20255 to receive information relating to the retail price of their products — updated daily with information for 42 crops (including peas, sugar snaps, avocadoes, passion fruit, peanuts, potatoes, cassava and mangos) sold in 5 markets.

In addition to pricing information and group selling, MFarm has also developed a group buying tool, allowing farmers to pool resources to negotiate better prices for things like fertiliser. Transactions are all handled by MFarm’s integrated mobile money transfer system — drawing on mobile payment technology MPesa — but can also be plugged into people’s bank accounts (if they have one). When an order is placed through MFarm, the farmer takes his or her produce to the designated collection point and sends a message to confirm the produce has been delivered. The buyer then collects the produce and verifies the quantity and quality by sending a message to MFarm. Once that’s been confirmed and the order has been fulfilled, the money is released by MFarm to the farmer’s account. With larger orders where multiple farmers are involved, the money is distributed between different accounts.

“In the long-run we want to offer better margins for farmers, but the other value proposition is a consistent market,” he says.

via New digital tool to give farmers valuable market, price information – Branding Voice

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