With more than 25 million mobile users in Kenya and more than 75% of the entire 39million Kenyans living in rural areas, mobile phones becomes an important bridge to get rural communities connected. One such critical rural population is the small-scale farmers. They would want to know the prices of food, the best agricultural practices to use, rapid response on disease outbreaks and what to do to contain the diseases, where they can sell their produce, get cheap inputs among other needs.
Mobile information platform is one technology that is
helping farmers make decisions, increase productivity and improve incomes.
With M-Farm, the farmer has acces to a short code 3555. Using the short code, a farmer anywhere in the country,
can know the prices of different crops in the major markets. In addition, a
farmer is able to sell his or her produce using the same mobile short code. The
first service is a real-time daily price information and the second is a selling
together service. The ‘selling together’ is an agricultural trading platform.
Other technologies that have made life easy for smallholders
farmers as well as traders includes mobile money transfer, micro-insurance
systems where using the mobile, farmers are helped to get certified seed,
access extension advise over the farmers' helpline and the insurance company can
monitor weather conditions and advise farmers on what to grow to reduce risks.
Mobile payment records can be used as proof of credit history and the mobile
payment systems are a supporting technology.
The real innovation however, that will boost Agriculture, is
an integrated system where one mobile technology panel is available to farmers
in a kind of a ‘One Stop Farmer Store’ where the farmers can access
any kind of information at will on their mobile phones. This will be the perfect way to connect farmers in an integrated manner.
Using the ‘Mobile Technology Panel’ farmers are able to get
best deals on farm inputs, study changing trends in food availability and use
that as an opportunity to plant certain crops, connect with buyers and sell to
highest bidder. Farmers can use their financial activities on the mobile payments
to prove their creditworthiness and also connect with other farmers where they
can exchange information or do barter trade. On the same panel farmers can have virtual groups
that trade together as well as gain access to bigger markets. This goes to show
there is still untapped potential in the mobile technology development for the
The only challenge is farmer literacy.
New applications are now available on our phones but most
farmers do not know how to use them for their benefit. Numerous studies have shown that texting is
not the preferred way of communication for most farmers yet most of these
technologies are text-based.