Apps usher in new era of local digital farmers
If she wants to grow any crop these days, Grace Nanjala, a farmer in Uasin Gishu County in Northwest Kenya, normally goes to her phone to check a variety of things. Among them is the specific variety to grow, the pests to look out for, the fertilizer to use and various agronomic practices. The farmer has downloaded different agro mobile apps into her phone, which she consults for various information.
“Through one of the apps, I also take inputs loan either in form of fertiliser or seeds which I pick from a specific agro vet shop in the nearby Eldoret town,” said Nanjala on phone on Wednesday.
Later when her crops grow, she is also able to monitor prices of the produce in markets in Western Kenya using a mobile app before she makes the decision on where to sell. Nanjala, 38, is one of the many digital farmers across the East African nation, who now virtually rely on their smartphones to perform various farm activities.
From knowing if a cow is on the heat when to serve it, when to plant, how to apply fertiliser, which crop varieties to grow, when it will rain and how to eliminate diseases and pests, mobile apps are providing all the answers to Kenyan farmers at the click of a button. The apps, some of which are downloaded for free, and are offered by both government and private sector have ushered a new digital era for millions of farmers.
“I no longer need to keep writing on my calendar when my cow calved down last to estimate when I should serve it. Everything is now in an app that I have on my phone,” said Bernard Kirui, a dairy farmer based in Kiambu County.
Using a mobile app, he is able to effortlessly monitor his animals’ breeding and production. Safaricom is among firms in Kenya, which have moved to cash in on growing use of agro mobile apps. The firm has developed a mobile agro app called Digi Farm, which offers smallholder farmers agriculture information and financial services.
Fred Kiio, the head of agribusiness, said the company came up with the app to fill an existing gap especially among small-scale farmers where most struggled to access finance, farm inputs, information, and market.
“About a million farmers are currently using the app, and we have also opened 118 depots countrywide to serve them,” said Kiio, highlighting the digital farming wave sweeping across Kenya.