Farming phone service helps 1000s of potato farmers in Kenya

Some 2,000 potato farmers in Kenya reportedly use SokoShambani, an SMS-based service launched last year, to access market information which they say helps make them “more competitive.”

With the simple code 8988, farmers can receive information on extension services, inputs, financing and marketing on their mobile phones.

With most farmers owning feature phones and data-less handsets, the service has opted to use an SMS platform familiar to those in rural areas, including Narok County.

“The impetus to start SokoShambani came from the appreciation that something was awfully wrong in the potato value chain as evidenced by such occurrences as price fluctuations, potato shortages and reports from government and development partners which clearly pointed that there was a problem,” Stephen Kirimi of the MFarmer, the developers of the app, told HumanIPO.

The name SokoShambani is a Kiswahili phrase which comes from the combination of Market (soko) Shambani (farm). It represents the “Market from Farm” concept that the mobile service gives to farmers.

“SokoShambani is a holistic program that addresses the challenges faced by small-scale potato farmers holistically,” Kirimi added. The whole approach helps markets find farmers and facilitates direct trading, eliminating the need for middlemen. The farmers end up making more money without raising the price of the commodity.

During a recently held tech event, Wireless Wednesday, Kirimi said that in the future the service would include other products apart from potatoes, once they are satisfied with the success of the current trial.

There has been a steady wave of practical farming apps in the African market. MFarm is one such app that has made its mark in the farming industry. MFarm gives farmers and suppliers opportunity to get market information and opens up an eMarket for farm produce.

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