Africa’s agricultural production relies mainly on the output of smallholder farmers (SHF). This results in farming activities being carried out inefficiently and in isolation, making it difficult for farmers to expand and improve their activities. With that notion in mind, we challenged ourselves to develop a solution which can empower users to change their status quo. Inefficiencies in the value chain were recognised as the main issues which prevented farmers to empower themselves. Indeed, lack of quality education, limited access to finance, and indirect interaction with markets together, prevent farmers from fully harnessing existing market opportunities. However, 90% smallholder farmers own mobile phones. In this hostile environment, we deem mobile technology to be ‘the’ solution aimed at overcoming Smallholder Farmers’ business hurdles.
DigiFarm is a consumer mobile app solution which aims to find sustainable solutions for Smallholder farmers to expand and improve their business activities. DigiFarm is continuously expanding and improving its existing capabilities. Initially, the service enabled farmers to buy inputs through the M-Pesa mobile money system. It also provided farmers with Push-Agri-learning content, supporting farmers with guidelines on how, when to plant a certain crop, how and when to harvest etc. Reports could also be created, registering input purchases, production and trade levels. The features available in the second phase of our launch can be considered an amelioration of our first rollout. Indeed, buying inputs is made easier for farmers, who can now ask for a day loan to purchase goods. The loan disbursement decision is based on a credit score, which is calculated through the farmer’s trading information registered on the app. Reports also increased their level of complexity, by adding Weather Forecasting, Schedule Management and Animal Health trackers. In the final version rollout, farmers will also get access to an online marketplace. This will enable farmers to sell their goods to buyers directly bypassing the need of a middleman, who often disproportionately gains out of these trade relationships. We believe the app’s capabilities can be efficiently exploited by Smallholder Farmers to tackle the issues they face on their path to economic success and emancipation.
The service is currently being deployed in Kenya with Safaricom supporting its expansion and market penetration.