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World Bank and South Korea fund helps promote digital farming

by Naftali Mwaura NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Fourteen Kenyan start-ups on Saturday won a 100 million Kenya shillings (about 1 million U.S. dollars) grant administered through a World Bank-Republic of Korea Partnership Facility to help transform small-holder farming through technologies and innovations.

The winning start-ups who were announced at the end of a two-day Disruptive Agricultural Technology conference in Nairobi will be required to use the funds to expand outreach to smallholders and help them address endemic challenges like low productivity, limited access to credit and market volatility.

"We expect the innovators to come up with disruptive technologies that can be adopted by small-holder farmers to boost productivity, financial inclusion, access to data on agronomy and market linkages," said Hamadi Boga, principal secretary in state department of agricultural research.

Kenya hosted a two-day disruptive agricultural technology conference and innovation challenge that was sponsored by the World Bank and a consortium of bilateral donors and international research bodies.

The high level forum culminated in the award of grants to local start-ups whose cutting edge innovations demonstrated ability to deploy farmer friendly technologies that can boost yield and streamline key value chains.

Parmesh Shah, World Bank’s lead rural development specialist for the African region, said that juries selected the 14 winners after they proved the scalability and commercial viability of their innovations.

"The pitching was excellent and we looked at the vibrancy of the innovation ecosystem, impact to farmers and whether the business model was both viable and disruptive," said Shah.

"We also looked at the scalability of the product itself, its uniqueness and networking capacity of the innovators," he added.

Shah said that winners of the World Bank-Republic of Korea innovation grants will benefit from training and mentorship to boost their capacity to deploy disruptive technologies to small-holder farmers.

"There will be boot camps for these innovators to help them acquire skills needed to scale their operations and create impact," said Shah, adding that the World Bank is keen to partner with key stakeholders and establish Africa’s largest agri-tech hub in Kenya.


World Bank to aid technology-led transformation of Kenya’s agriculture sector

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The World Bank has partnered with Kenya’s ministry of agriculture to facilitate deployment of digital platforms that can be harnessed by small-holder farmers to boost crop yield, officials said on Friday.

Dina Umali-Deininger, World Bank’s agriculture global practice manager for central, eastern and southern African region said availing technologies and innovations to Kenyan smallholders will help them tackle bottlenecks that undermine productivity.

"We hope that technologies like mobile phones will help farmers’ access inputs like seeds and fertilizers, markets and knowledge on how they can improve their yield," said Umali-Deininger.

She spoke on the sidelines of the Disruptive Agricultural Technology conference underway in Nairobi that is sponsored by the World Bank and a consortium of global research entities.

The two-day conference that will culminate in award of seed capital to Kenyan start-ups that have revolutionized small-holder farming through deployment of novel innovations is being attended by policymakers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Umali-Deininger revealed that the World Bank in conjunction with Kenya’s ministries of agriculture and ICT plan to embed uptake of digital platforms in the One Million Farmer Initiative that will be implemented in the next three years across 45 counties.

"The digital platforms we are supporting will provide solutions to one million small holder farmers in Kenya grappling with challenges around productivity, post-harvest storage, market access and financial inclusion," said Umali-Deininger.

She disclosed that ten outstanding agri-tech entrepreneurs who will receive grants totaling 100 million shillings (about 1 million U.S. dollars) will be incorporated in two World Bank’s financed projects to boost small-holders’ productivity in the East Africa’s largest economy.

"Basically, we are focusing on scaling up access to disruptive technologies that can make farming more productive, climate resilient and rewarding to small-holders," said Umali-Deininger.

Kenya commands the lion share of Africa’s agritech entrepreneurship space thanks to friendly regulatory environment, supportive infrastructure and abundance of tech-savvy youth.

Parmesh Shah, World Bank’s lead rural development specialist for the African region said the lender will partner with the government and investors to create a robust agricultural innovations ecosystem in Kenya.

"We are optimistic that a stronger partnership with the government and private sector will boost deployment of innovations to the doorstep of smallholder farmers," said Parmesh.

He said that access to disruptive technologies will boost the capacity of small-holder farmers to manage water resources, improve soil health and respond effectively to crop pests and diseases.

Africa’s green revolution to be driven by digital platforms: experts

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The next phase of agricultural transformation that is required to boost food security and rural incomes across Sub-Saharan Africa will be realized through adoption of new technologies and innovation, experts said on Friday.

Speaking at the Disruptive Agricultural Technology conference taking place in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, policymakers and experts said that greater uptake of digital platforms by African small-holders is key to boosting yields.

"Technology is key to boosting efficiency, productivity and competitiveness of agriculture in the African continent," said Hamadi Boga, principal secretary in Kenya’s ministry of agriculture.

"We should invest in ICT to help serve our farmers better, ensure they have access to real time information on farm inputs, weather patterns, markets and appropriate storage," he added.

Kenya is hosting the two days Digital Agriculture Technology, Innovation Knowledge and Challenge Conference that is being attended by policy makers, scientists, industry executives and founders of agri-based start-ups to explore novel innovations that can transform small-holder farming in Africa.

The conference that is sponsored by the World Bank and a consortium of international research organizations will culminate in award of seed capital to outstanding local agri-tech start-ups that are transforming livelihoods of small-holder farmers.

Edson Mpyisi, chief financial economist at African Development Bank (AfDB), said that technologies like mobile phone applications, big data, drones and artificial intelligence if harnessed tactfully could provide durable solution to hunger and malnutrion crisis in the continent.

He urged African governments to prioritize regulatory reforms in order to boost investments in disruptive technologies required to boost crop yield and farmer’s income amid climatic shocks, shrinking arable land and population pressure.

Sriram Bharatam, founder of Nairobi based social enterprise, Kuza Biashara said that African countries can leverage on digital revolution to reorganize agricultural value chains and make them resilient to extreme weather events and market volatility.



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