by Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- When she wants to
know what seed variety to grow, Josephine Mutuku would take up
her smartphone, open an app and types in the name of the crop
and its region of cultivation.
Mutuku, 38, is a farmer
in Kenya’s Machakos county.
Once she gets the information, Mutuku can then choose the
seeds and pay via mobile money or take credit, all through the
The same thing happens if she needs to buy fertilizers,
pesticides or any other farm inputs, which can be delivered to
her via courier services.
And later on, as the crops grow, Mutuku can learn more about
the market of her produce, such as tomatoes, also through the
Mutuku is among a growing number of Kenyan farmers who have
embraced digital farming solutions that are changing the east
African nation’s agribusiness scene.
The platforms are delivering solutions to farmers’ finger
tips, with experts noting that they represent the future of
agribusiness in the country.
This is because they are not only offering solutions to
farmers faster, but also pulling the youth into agribusiness, a
move that is boosting Kenya’s quest to be food-secure.
"Digital farming is definitely the future of agribusiness in
"These technologies are opening up vast untapped potential
for farmers, investors, and entrepreneurs to improve efficiency
of food production and consumption," Fred Kiio, head of
M-Agribusiness at Safaricom, Kenya’s leading telecommunication
firm, said in a recent interview.
Kiio said digital technology has changed many sectors of
Kenya’s economy and that agriculture is quickly catching up.
"With a smartphone, laptop and the internet, perceptions have
been changed towards farming, with more young people venturing
into it," he said.
"This is also expected to contribute to the country’s efforts
in achieving food security."
Safaricom is among the companies in Kenya that have invested
in digital farming technologies.
"Our platform is called DigiFarm, and is an integrated,
free-to-use mobile app that offers smallholder farmers access to
a suite of information and financial services, including
discounted products, customized information on farming best
practices, and access to credit and other financial facilities,"
Through the platform, farmers access e-extension services,
quality inputs, credit and insurance, market facilitation and
post-harvest loss management.
Kenyan farmers, according to Kiio, face numerous challenges
such as lack of access to finance, information, market and
approved farm inputs.
"Only digital technology has the ability to reach the
millions of farmers and deliver these solutions that include
guaranteed access to high quality inputs, affordable credit and
trusted agricultural information," he said.
Safaricom’s DigiFarm platform has 950,000 registered members
countrywide, Kiio said.
In addition to Safaricom’s, there are more than other 20
farming apps in Kenya, and over a million farmers are believed
to be using them.
Not only the private sector is embracing digital platforms to
reach farmers. Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and
Fisheries is running a free SMS service through which farmers
can access information.
"Signs of fall armyworms attack include tiny holes in the
maize funnel, ragged holes on leaves and orange saw-dust like
dropping," one recent SMS read.
"If you find armyworm in your maize, pick and drown then in
"Crush all egg masses, mix ash, sand and apply to the