Tech helps farmers raise yields, access markets


FarmForce technical assistant (centre), explains a point to Stephen Mwiti (right), with another farmer in Imenti, Meru. PHOTO | PETER CHANGTOEK | NMG

Various technologies are now being used to boost farming and improve yields in Kenya.

FarmForce technology is one such innovations. The platform, which enables farmers to access a variety of services, was introduced in Kenya over a decade ago and has been instrumental in helping farmers to increase earnings from their produce.

Among the farmers who have benefited from the technology is Stephen Mwiti, 40, who got to know about the technology several years back. He says thanks to the solution, he has been able to easily access information posted online through his phone.

FarmForce allows Mr Mwiti, a farmer from Imenti South, and other registered small-scale farmers in the area to monitor their activities right from planting, cultivation to harvesting.

The platform also helps small-scale farmers to comply with international standards in order to export their produce to various markets across the globe.

The technology, that is implemented in Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria and Thailand, was launched in Nairobi, Kenya in 2012, and so far, over 350,000 people have registered and used it in several parts of the country.

So how does the platform work?

The technology captures a farmer’s details and a profile is created with the name of the farmer, identification number, his photo, location, size, shape and map of the of the farm on GPS. This is done by a technical assistant who goes around the farm collecting the essential data.

The information that is captured helps in tracking the farm and is used in determining the kind of assistance the farmer needs in terms of inputs.

“The technology offers accuracy, transparency and accountability as neither the farmer nor the technical assistant can lie in terms of inputs and the expected outcome” explains Isaiah Wachira, a technical assistant.

For a farmer to access the new technology, they register first with a group after which an android phone is used for configuration.

“We often deal with small-scale farmers who need to first register with a group so as to meet the market demand in terms of quantity and for easy management,” adds the technical assistant.

The technology uses a simple mobile app that works whether one is online or not, and data syncs automatically when a connection becomes available.

Once a farmer is registered, he or she starts working with a technical assistant, right from planting, cultivation to the harvesting period.

The data can only be sent when the technical assistant is on the specific grower’s farm. The technology cannot transfer data when on a different piece of land, other than the one captured on the profile.

This means, a technical assistant has to physically visit a farm and once the information is sent, it is captured instantly and can be checked online, including the time it was captured.

A wireless weighing scale is integrated so that the amount of the harvest is automatically recorded and relayed to a central point.

Mr Mwiti says that the technology has enabled him to harvest up to a maximum of 400kgs of produce, from every packet of certified seeds he plants. This is compared to 150kgs he used to harvest previously, before using the technology.

“Previously, I used to harvest 150kgs-200kgs as I had little idea on how technology can transform my life, but today I know and the bumper harvests explain it all thanks to the new technology,” says the farmer, who grows various crops including French beans.

The technology also enables farmers get information on agrochemical use, weather and access agricultural information on time.

It also allows them to increase sales, yields, market access, credit access, cut transaction costs as well as get higher prices.

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