Telcom firm launches information system for farmers

Mobile phone firm Airtel Kenya has launched an agribusiness information system meant to provide real time information to farmers on its network in a bid to increase yields and income from agribusiness.  

The project, dubbed ‘Airtel Kilimo’, hopes to provide farmers with access to agriculture-related information, advice and research. This information will help them make better decisions about their crops hence increasing the productivity of their yield as well as their potential income.  Airtel Kenya managing director Shivan Bhargava noted, “Airtel recognizes the importance of agriculture in the development of the country, explaining that mobile phones are the success story of bridging the rural digital divide, bringing tangible economic benefits and acting as agents of social mobilization through improved communication.” He added that Airtel is keen on using its quality network and service offerings to make life better for its customers and farmers in Kenya.

According Bhargava, mobile telephony effectively reduces the "distance" between individuals and institutions, making the sharing of information and knowledge easier and more effective.

“This service is aimed at harnessing farmers’ needs by giving them access to the information they need to improve their farming activities. Gaining access to this information will be of great benefit to the farmers whose livelihoods and those of many Kenyans are dependent on their yield,” said Bhargava.    
    
The service will mainly focus on Kenya’s essential crops like maize, banana, mango, rice and beans. Farmers will also benefit from weather updates and marketing pricing information. “We are first going to provide information to farmers dealing with these main crops in the country although later on we shall introduce services to other crops,” noted Bhargava.

In order for the project to reach out to many farmers in the country, Airtel Kenya will work with Mobipay, Kenya Livestock Producers Association, Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International (CABI), Kilimo Media, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) and Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE) to ensure that farmers get farming information through the platform available on Airtel network.      
 
Airtel Kilimo has 3 channel of access where customers can get all the information they need. The service is freely available for clients who dial *760#, SMS subscription where a customer is charged Sh3 per SMS and on Interactive Voice Response (IVR) for Sh3 per minute.
 
In March last year, Airtel Africa established a Farmers Information System which enable women farmers to access  information on weather updates, policy (such as taxation and regulation), and support services among others. This followed a memorandum of understanding signed between the UN Women (The United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women) and Airtel Africa.