Smallholder farmers in Kenya face a myriad of challenges in a bid to make a living from their land. Some of the challenges include lack of finances as most financial institutions are not likely to give them loans, lack of quality inputs not to mention lack of markets for their produce. To counter this, Safaricom has this week opened a Digifarm depot in Burnt Forest town, Uasin Gishu county.
The depot is meant to encourage small holder farmers to start engaging in agribusiness by enabling them access quality inputs and sustainable markets. It has been opened in partnership with agricultural supply chain experts iProcure. iProcure is said to be the largest agricultural supply chain platform in rural Africa. Farmers will be able to purchase the inputs via Mpesa or get credit payable between 30-90 days.
The depot will also act as a source of data for the county government, which will be able to use this information for planning and resource allocation as well as enabling agricultural extension officers to reach more farmers.
Digifarm is an integrated mobile platform that offers farmers convenient, one-stop access to a variety of services including discounted inputs and advice on input use, financing, and information on crops and animals. The platform also improves collection of agricultural data by registering farmers and allowing them to key in information such as the size of their farms and nature of farming activities. Since it was launched, in October 2017, the platform has registered over 672,000 farmers and disbursed over 7,000 loans through a mobile phone loan module that gives farmers access to financing for the purchase of farming inputs.
Speaking at the launch, Victor Ngumo, Head of Rift Region – Safaricom had this to say, there is an urgent need for us to commercialise farming in Kenya, and we want to do this by helping smallholder farmers to transition into agribusiness. In addition to farming inputs, this depot will give farmers access to agronomists who will advise them on issues such as soil productivity and quality of seeds to help them improve their yields.