Sharing information with farmers via mobile phone bolsters production and promotes easy market access
A majority of small scale farmers in Kenya and Africa as a whole have limited access to up to date market prices for various farm produce from their farms especially in the rural areas. Middlemen have taken advantage of this lack of knowhow by farmers to enrich themselves at the expense of the very hardworking small scale agriculturalists.
Upon realizing the challenges facing farmers in accessing information, Jamila Abass, a computer scientist founded an application called Mfarm, which connects farmers with buyers directly.
“Many farmers produce good quality produce, but lack knowledge on how to market them hence incur heavy losses” said Jamila.
Mfarm, founded in 2010, is a transparency tool which enables farmers to inquire current market prices of different crops from different regions and/or specific markets. What farmers need to do is to simply send a short message (SMS) to 20255 to promote their products on sale.
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When an order is placed through MFarm, the farmer takes his or her produce to the designated collection point and sends a message to confirm the produce has been delivered. The buyer then collects the produce and verifies the quantity and quality by sending a message to MFarm.
Once that’s been confirmed and the order has been fulfilled, the money is released by MFarm to the farmer’s account. With larger orders where multiple farmers are involved, the money is distributed between different accounts.
A study in central Kenya with 600 farmers showed that farmers could double their sales by using MFarm. “Mfarm can lower costs [of supplies] and offer better margins for farmers, but the other value proposition is a consistent market,” says Abass. “It’s not just about the prices but also knowing if a buyer will be available.”