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    By George Munene 

    Founded by two engineering students in July 2020, ecoSokoni is a mobile marketplace app and resource center that seeks to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers as well as empowering farmers with information that helps improve their earnings.

    For ecoSokoni's co-founder James Adera, a fifth-year University of Nairobi student the impetus behind the company's establishment was to enfranchise small-scale farmers by easing their access to markets and provide basic information that remains inaccessible to most of Kenya's over 4.5 million smallholder farmers.

    "For most city dwellers the quantity of 20 bob worth of sukuma rarely changes, this is however not the case for the farmer. Despite the risks, middlemen often come out ahead by riding this market volatility," Adera said.

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    Through the app farmers and buyers are able to interact directly with no middlemen. Farmers also acquire valuable information on the best farming practices for various crops. EcoSokoni's farming magazine keeps up to date on what's abuzz in farming circles: what crops are fetching the best price for the season, emergent lucrative ventures in the agricultural space, etc.

    The app also doubles as an online agrovet and shop for farm machinery.

    Related News:Agritech startup giving market to small-scale banana, pumpkin, sweet potato, arrowroot & yam growers

    EcoSokoni has also branched out to offering last-mile logistics by supplying hotels and eateries with bulk assorted produce and branded value pack food boxes to households. These consist of aggregated agri produce from farmers which are repackaged as value packs. "This can be a health pack that consists of an assortment of health forward food options such as ginger, lemon, turmeric; your everyday helping of foodstuff for a nine to five employee--some pishori rice, tomatoes, carrots, onions, capsicums, courgettes or even recipes for cooking fish for example accompanied by some tilapia and all the ingredients needed," said James.

    ecoSokonii: +254 717 256565

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    Tilapia fish

    By George Munene

    The National Assembly's Committee on Agriculture— which controls Kenya's fisheries policy— has confirmed its plans to ban fish imports from China in a move aimed at protecting local fisheries and fishermen.

    “I don’t see why we should import from China when we have enough fish in the country. There is a lot of potential in our waters, we must capture it,” said Silas Tiren, head of the committee. 

    The value of Chinese fish imports into Kenya fell from Sh2.2 billion in 2019 to Sh1.5 billion last year owing to disruptions in fishing activities and its movement caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. China however still accounted for 70 percent of the country's fish imports.

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    Local fishmongers have turned to Chinese fish imports as they are often cheaper than locally caught fish. A kilogram of Kenyan fish sells for up to Sh400, while a similar cut of  Chinese imported fish costs about Sh250.  

    Kenyan lawmakers have accused China and other foreign countries of fishing from Kenyan waters and later selling the fish back to Kenyan consumers impoverishing local fishers.

    Kenyan fishermen are contending with a drop in the numbers of fish in major natural fishing grounds and a proliferation of foreign-owned fishing vessels on the country's shores. In Lake Victoria, fish numbers have been on a steady yearly decline. In 2020, the number of fish caught dropped from 90,000 to 86,000 metric tonnes. Lake Naivasha fish numbers have dropped by over 60 per cent over the last few months owing to overfishing, illegal fishing, and cold weather.

    Related News: KMFRI develops 13 new fish products and farmer training

    According to Global Fish Watch, between May and August fishing vessels mainly from Italy, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong recorded about 50,000 hours of fishing on Kenyan shores. These industrial fishing vessels leave slim pickings for local artisanal fishermen.

    Per the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), Kenya produces 120,000 tonnes of fish against an annual demand of 700,000 tonnes.

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    Arrowroot farming

    By George Munene

    With recent headlines of an entire sack of potatoes selling at the same price as two plates of chips, it has become increasingly evident that farmers need to rethink existing models of getting their produce to market. Elisha Mukoya, an arrowroot farmer at Mumias has done just that. This has enabled him not only to improve his earnings but provide a source of income for several previously unemployed young men. 

    "Rather than selling my produce through brokers who are often looking to undercut farmers, I teamed up with seven young men based in Kakamega to whom I supply every week with two 90 kilogram bags of nduma each," he said.

    Before they get started, Elisha sets them up with a shed to sell out of. It is fitted with a jiko, sufuria and a couple of benches. They are then required to come up with about Sh1,000 every week to keep the business running. This supplies charcoal, water, sugar, and miscellaneous expenses.  

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    They sell to consumers directly when the ndumas are still raw or add value through boiling. Given clients are not in short supply they prefer to boil the arrowroots which earn them more. 

    A sack of arrowroots holds 400-500 pieces, each one is split up to four times and sold for ten shillings. From the two sacks, each of the young men collects Sh23,000 at the end of each week. From their earnings, Elisha charges them Sh8,000 for every sack.

    His biggest challenge is one every farmer would love to have: a shortage in supply.

    "Farm-to-table farming demands consistency in the delivery of produce without any shortages or delays, " he informs.

    Related News: Mumias farmer mints millions supplying underserved arrowroot market

    With in-demand crops that are consumed with little value addition, he urges other farmers to explore innovative ways they can reach consumers. This improves their overall earnings as well as integrating other earners into the agricultural value chain.

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