Ejidiah Wangui NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
There are two things that give Gerald
Thambiri sleepless nights—where to sell his produce
and erratic weather.
middle-aged banana farmer in the upper eastern
Kenyan county of Meru, about 225 km from Nairobi,
said while weather is a problem he can’t stress so
much over since it’s a natural occurrence, he feels
bad that he still has to rely on middlemen to sell
Though this eats into his profit, he would rather
reach the market through middlemen than see his
produce rot in the farm.
Delivering produce directly to the market is a
dilemma many Kenyan farmers have had to put up with
for long and most opt to sell through middlemen who
grab up to three-quarters of their profit.
"I have been a farmer all my life.
"I know my bananas are mostly consumed in
Nairobi, but I have never set foot there.
"I have always sold my produce through middlemen,
which has been the only option available for many of
us who don’t have any means to transport produce to
Nairobi," Thambiri told reporters during an
interview on Friday.
Luckily he is likely to get rid of voracious
middlemen if he chooses to enroll into a
technology-based platform that sources fruits and
vegetables from over 8,000 farmers across 20 regions
The platform delivers directly to over 5,000
vendors across Nairobi and its environs.
According to Daniel Ngugi, who works for the
agricultural supply platform Twiga Foods, any farmer
can sign up as a member as long as their produce
meets stipulated quality standards and that the farm
is located within the firm’s sourcing regions.
Established in 2014, Twiga works to address gaps
in the market of agricultural produce by providing
an efficient selling place.
While farmers enjoy guaranteed markets,
transparent pricing and advice from the firm,
vendors get fair prices, free delivery and quality
produce whose safety is assured and easily
"Farmers are very receptive to us.
"The advantage is we are able to treat their
farming activity like a business.
"We give them consistent market, better prices
and, on top of that, we provide transactional
history," Ngugi said.
"There is also added advantage of agronomy
support from our experts."
Kenya loses up to 30 percent of agricultural
produce to post-harvest losses between the farm and
According to Ngugi, Twiga Foods sells
approximately 100 tons of produce daily, a quantity
set to go up as the firm plans to move the ordering
burden to customers.
"In a few weeks’ time, small grocery sellers will
be able to order for supply from the comfort of
their house and will be sure to find the order
delivered at their selling point the following
morning," said Ngugi.
If someone told Thambiri 13 years ago that he
could use technology as a means to sell his bananas
and carrots, it could have sounded like the joke of
Up until 2005, it was considered a risky venture
to invest in high capacity broadband in Kenya.
People like Thambiri could never have imagined
connecting with their clients online.
When Kenya built a high-capacity broadband
through undersea cables, the cost of internet access
went down, opening up a world of opportunities, and
companies like Twiga Foods are taking advantage of
this space to seal gaps in the country’s
agricultural supply chain.
Technology-enabled farming and distribution has
the potential to create Kenya’s next billionaires,
with the right policies in place, observers say.
Noah Nasiali, a farmer who was recently awarded
100 million Kenyan shillings (1 million U.S.
dollars) by Facebook for creating a platform that
brings together farmers from across eight African
countries where they discuss day-to-day issues in
their farms, said lack of proper information such as
prices at which to sell produce has been one of the
problems preventing Kenya from being food secure.
Nasiali, who is the brain behind Hortlive
AgriVentures, a one-stop shop for agricultural
products, said he almost quit a few months into
farming after he found himself stranded with ready
crop he didn’t know who to sell to.
His dilemma led him onto Facebook where he sought
counsel from other farmers on where they sell their
produce and at what prices.
To his surprise, everyone who responded expressed
similar concerns; they were either stuck with
produce in their farms or were selling at throwaway
prices to middlemen who strike at the right time.
Agritech start-ups help address many challenges
farmers face, including access-to-market barriers,
logistical challenges, as well as buyer power from
large supermarkets that take up to one year before
paying for produce supplied to them by farmers.