Ideas & Debate

Going digital holds key to better farmers’ earnings

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Digital identification for farmers: Chace Hatcher from America shows how to enroll farmers digitally during the launch of Mkulima Digital app. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Summary

  • Decision-makers have a better understanding of inputs consumption patterns through automated capturing of farmers’ purchases at selected agro-dealer outlets.
  • Digitisation of government operations has been shown to benefit the citizenry by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.

Information and digitisation of agricultural service delivery are critical enablers of a robust food system. Accurate information about farmers and their enterprises in Kenya for instance can be a great asset in the decision-making process.

The existence of such a database of registered farmers linked to service providers will not only strengthen service delivery through the provision of an array of services but also make farming attractive, especially to the youth.

The government acknowledges that agriculture is the backbone of our economy. Over the years the government has supported farmers in their crops, livestock and aquaculture enterprises to enhance production for home consumption and income generation.

These efforts have however been undermined by middlemen keen on exploiting farmers and swindling the government. The use of third parties and manual processes to supply fertilisers and other farm inputs has in the past been riddled with corruption.

Digitisation of these processes offers a foolproof system that allows for audit as it leaves an online footprint that enhances transparency.

For a long time, farmers have suffered at the hands of cartels. Brokers strategically positioned at planting time when farm inputs are in high demand and at harvest time when farmers are in dire need of a good market for their produce.

This will soon be a thing of the past as the government moves to enhance the registration of farmers through the Kenya Integrated Agriculture Management Information System (KIAMIS).

KIAMIS, developed through a partnership between the Government and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is a digital platform solution that improves the efficiency of service delivery to farmers. The system provides important data and information for decision-makers to enhance food and nutrition security.

The system utilises a central digital farmer registry to provide additional services, such as inputs management, e-Extension content delivery, credit management and mechanization services.

KIAMIS enhances transparency and Government oversight of inputs support programmes in the agricultural sector. Transparency is increased by virtual real-time reconciliation and monitoring provided by the system.

Decision-makers have a better understanding of inputs consumption patterns through automated capturing of farmers’ purchases at selected agro-dealer outlets. Furthermore, it improves targeting of beneficiaries and reduction of ghost farmers, thereby enhancing the impact of the inputs.

At the same time, KIAMIS will provide decision-makers with information on the production, yield, and effectiveness of subsidy programs.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, in collaboration with the Council of Governors (CoG) and with support from FAO has successfully piloted this system in Uasin Gishu and Nyandarua counties.

The system currently supports farmer registration and e-vouchers that enable farmers to get subsidised farm inputs through a smooth and speedy process. The results from the pilot have confirmed the versatility of this system in solving many challenges faced by farmers while accessing the services and goods they require.

Although still at the piloting stage the selected farmers were able to seamlessly get subsidised farm inputs from participating Agrovets. For a selected package the farmers paid 60percent while the government paid 40percent.

Kenya is not the first country in Africa to establish this system. A similar system is fully functional in Zambia. The Zambia Integrated Agriculture Management Information System (ZIAMIS).

This was also developed with the support of FAO, and has enabled the Zambian government to save millions that accrued from losses directly attributable to cartels stationed along with various value chains nodes. The result has been motivated farmers, thriving crop and livestock production, and impactful government subsidies.

Digitisation of government operations has been shown to benefit the citizenry by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.

President Uhuru Kenyatta during the Mashujaa Day celebrations noted how digitisation of land records in Kenya is transforming land ownership with benefits spreading over to other sectors. He summed it up by saying that the future in efficient and effective government service delivery is in the integration of information and communication technology.

FAO through its Land Governance Programme has been a major player in the digitisation of land records and is extending this to digitisation of the registration of farmers and service delivery in the agricultural sector.

Prof Boga is the PS, crop development and agricultural research. Ms Mucavi is the Food and Agriculture Organization, representative in Kenya