Farmers in Kenya can now get farming tips, market information and discounts on agricultural inputs, through their mobile phones, thanks to iShamba, a mobile phone aided platform that allows users to call and send text messages to stationed agronomists at normal rates, typically KSh1 per message.
To register for the service, farmers just need to send a blank message to 21606 from any mobile telecommunications network in the country. Once the message is received, a customer care attendant from iShamba will call the farmer to get information from them about the physical location of their farm, plants grown and livestock reared, among other details. This, according to Calvin of iShamba, helps them to connect the farmer to experts from the region.
An active membership allows farmers to get more information by calling 0711082606 or through messaging their questions to 21606 and experts will respond. In addition, registered members receive weekly weather forecasts, market prices and tips on how to get the most from their farm, local to their region and in tune with their crop calendar.
The iShamba platform aims to seal the information gap that hinder production by especially smallholder farmers. The system further links users to farm input companies and service providers, from whom can get discounts on sales. A partnership between iShamba and Soil Care, for instance, ensures that farmers using the platform are not charged more than Sh1200 for soil testing and analysis, a service that normally costs Sh2400. Other companies working in partnership with iShamba include Mea seed company and D-light solar firm, among others.
According to Tom Dyson, the Director at Torchbox, one of the companies that partnered in developing iShamba, the services offered are affordable, and the platform is convenient and easy to use for its main clients, smallholder farmers. Statistics from iShamba confirm that the platform is currently used by more than a million farmers across the country, with the numbers expected to increase once it extends its reach to other East Africa countries.