NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – An innovative idea by a Kenyan firm on how to package and disseminate climate information to farmers has won them Sh20 million in a competition sponsored by the UK Aid.
Farmers Pride is ‘one-stop solution shop’ for farmers in some 11 counties, where they can access climate information, purchase insurances and farm products.
Their target is the vulnerable farmers at the village level, who are prone to counterfeit products and may not understand complex climate information offered by the Kenya Meteorological Department, in a country where weather patterns are never predictable.
How do they work?
Capital FM News caught up with Farmers Pride Chief Executive Officer Samuel Munguti shortly after he emerged winner of the hotly contested innovation challenge, who says for the last two years, they have reached over 20,000 farmers.
They work through an agro-dealer franchise model, village youth agents and mobile technology.
“The business model integrates farmer field extension and education services, quality agricultural inputs sales and distribution, Farmer market linkages, financial services, soil testing services, climate information sharing, and farmer insurance services to offer a reinforced platform for rural social and economic development,” he said.
“Farmers Pride is leveraging on professionalizing agro-dealers to build a sustainable social enterprise.”
He added that “we partner with rural agro products stores, we transform to look fresh, we give them the tools they need to empower their local farmers, empower them to access quality inputs through farmers pride and so on.”
How do they disseminate information to farmers?
Munguti says they leverage on the massive mobile penetration in Kenya to send climate information to farmers through a Short Message Service (SMS).
“Our platform is unique, we call it last mile franchise stores and mobile technology,” he asserted.
Their stores, he said have shop assistances who advises farmers on the right seeds to choose and other farm products.
The mobile platform is called “Daktari Pap” that avails weekly climate information via an SMS to farmers.
Such information, he said is “interpreted and cascaded to a language that locals’ farmers can consume. We make it more consumable.”
For the last two years, the platform has reached more than 20,000 farmers whom he says that they have all reported 30 per cent increase in their farm products.
With the Sh20 million, he says they intend to launch 40 more village stores across the country in a bid to reach out on more farmers.
Ukulima Tech- a food sustainability- platform was the runners-up and won Sh7.5 million.
The tech project manager Elizabeth Achieng said her initiative, “is geared to transform agriculture in relation to the new realities of climate change. We basically provide contextualized and tailored climate information to farmers, to enable them to make informed decisions.”
They are based in Makueni, Machakos and Kitui Counties.
Once they get information from the Kenya Meteorological Department, Achieng says they “integrate it, then interpret it to reflect the specific user needs and then send an SMS on their phones.”
Such messages are either in English, Kiswahili or Kamba languages.
With the cash, she hopes they will be able to develop a voice technology such that farmers can receive voice alerts and develop an advanced digital communication system among other initiatives.
Farmers are charged Sh3 per SMS.
Jonathan Slater, the Climate Information Prize expert says the competition was set up in 2013, where innovative people were challenged to derive ways of breaking down metrological data and packaging it in a way a small-scale farmer in the village can understand.
“Such as communities that usually don’t look at the weather or understands what weather means,” he said.
“We were looking at how they can express climate information in a way that is useful to farmers, pastoralists, fishermen and so on.”
The Climate Information Prize programme was run in Kenya, that saw seven Kenyan contestants compete for the big prize.