Innovating to save farmer, assure food security

Posted on | september 27, 2012 | No Comments

logoWhile key global leaders led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan and Melinda Gates, co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation assemble in Arusha, Tanzania for the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) aimed at developing African-led food security solutions, an example to be showcased by a youthful Kenyan Linda Kwamboka at the forum could however be what Africa needs to feed itself.

Two years ago Linda Kwamboka, a Business Information Technology graduate teamed up with former colleagues at the Strathmore University in Kenya to start M-Farm Ltd, a software solution and agribusiness company with the hope of changing small scale farmers attitude towards farming and link them to markets.

Jamila Abbas and Susan Ogoya who had studied computer related courses offered their programming creativity to create a tool for farmers where they simply SMS the number 3555 to get information pertaining to the retail price of their products, buy their farm inputs directly from manufacturers at favorable prices, and find buyers for their produce.

Speaking ahead of the Forum which kicks off on Thursday, Kwamboka says that sustainable supplies has been the bane of most buyers as inconsistent supplies from farmers always works against their businesses.

Kenyan farmers, she says are plagued with problems which affect farm productivity and livelihood.

“The scenario has distorted farming in Kenya and works against small scale farmers. Big buyers with money do not find structured environment to trade with small scale farmers instead opt to work with either large scale farmers or turn to foreign markets,” she says.

The result is that small scale farmers get fall prey to middlemen who only offer meager prices for their produce. When they opt for state agencies such as the cereal board, they also face delayed payments and fail to offset cost of crop production.

“All these disillusions farmers who with time begin to fall behind production and lead to food insecurity,” she says.

Kwamboka says for Kenya and indeed Africa to be assured of food security, small scale farmers must be made to change their attitude and outlook on farming. “They must be made to look at their activity not just as supplying food to consumers, but as entrepreneurs or people in serious business,” she said.

M-Farm has slowly begun to do this by connecting them with each other and buyers in a virtual space. With M-Farm, farmers not only get affordable farm inputs but also are able to sell collectively out of discredited, politicised and scandal-riddled cooperatives societies.

M-Farm offers smallholder farmer with three services: price information, collective crop selling, and collective input buying. They are currently collecting wholesale market price information on 42 crops in five markets in Kenya.

Pricing information is collected weekly through independent data collectors using geocoding to ensure that the prices are being collected from wholesale traders actually located in each market.

“We collect wholesale prices of the commodities using data collectors employed to this in five key towns of Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret and Kitale and list the information on our price page,” she said.

M-Farm Android App on Samsung App Store

M-Farm partnered with Samsung, a partnership that sees them release their mobile application, which is available on both Android and Samsung’s based phones.

The application, she says is free. One just hits download and gets real time crop prices from M-Farm. “We have a selection of 42 crops to start and prices from the towns and farming regions.

The application delivers the latest prices for over the past five days of the week. “We collect prices Monday to Saturday. One only needs to download and start making deals based on current market prices based on the nearest market we are reporting from,” she says.

This enables the farmer to make informed economic decisions on what to plant when, how to price his produce and where to sell.

How the system works

Farmers join by subscribing to M-Farm by sending and SMS to 3555 “Join FirstName LastName Location” format. The subscription helps them sell their products through M-Farm marketplace.

They tell an M-Farm aggregator employed to oversee an area what crops they are planting, the acreage, when they expect to harvest.

Such an arrangement, she says help M-Farm to aggregate a group of farmers planting the same kind of crop together and help them market their crop as a group to assure buyers with quantity.

With this information, the M-Farm then begins to seek for buyers, using the information some subscribed buyers have entered to link them to farmers who have planted the crop they may need.

Equally, anyone can get crop prices from M-Farm by sending and SMS to 3555 “Price cropname location” format or sell products by subscribing to M-Farm by sending and SMS to 3555 “Sell cropname weight price” format in which case, the seller will also include the product, quantity, and cost per kilogramme of their produce which could be used to help buyers see how best to bargain with the farmers.


M-Farm was launched after winning the IPO48 competition — a 48 hour boot-camp event aimed at giving web/mobile start-ups a platform to launch their start-ups. Of the 37 initial ideas, M-Farm took away the €10,000 prize as capital investment.

As such, M-Farm has from the beginning been linked up with both local and international advisors and consultants in various areas they feel such is needed.

It has partnered with community radio stations across key production regions of Kenya through which they create awareness of their existence and tell farmers and buyers of farm produce of their existence and service. They have also partnered with the Kenya Television through which they pass the market prices across key towns to viewers during the 1 pm news bulletin.

Currently, 5000 farmers, mostly horticultural producers who mostly face storage problems for their perishable goods are hooked to M-farm services.

AUTHOR: Henry Neondo
URL: http://
E-MAIL: neondohenry [at]


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