ICT and Agribusiness in Kenya

The agricultural sector continues to dominate much of Kenya’s economy as almost two-thirds of the population makes a living off of farming.  It is no surprise then that much of the ICT policies enacted should focus on this sector in particular to ensure increased development within the country.  One such initiative, M-Farm, was set up by the Kenyan Agribusiness Company through which local farmers received crop prices and market information through a simple SMS on their mobile phones.  Furthermore, it provides a digital marketplace in which subscribing farmers can easily sell their crops.  The process is simple -“M-Farm has a contract with a local exporter, who buys the produce directly from the farmers using their mobile devices.”  Not only does this give the farmers a reliable market at their fingertips, but also reduces transaction costs leaving more money in their pockets.  Since the program’s beginning in 2010, over 2,000 farmers benefit from this initiative.  Moreover, seeing the success of the project, investors continue to support M-Farm as it grows into many of the neighboring towns as well.  Ultimately, the vision of the company is to implement the same model in other developing countries which rely on the agricultural sector as well.

I believe this project is more effective than other agricultural initiatives in that it not only gives farmer access to market prices but also sets up a marketplace for them to sell their crops.  During the video in class which discussed the reasons for failed ICT programs, one of the individuals stated that farmers are given the wrong information – they do not want just the market price of tomatoes, but also information on how to keep them ripe longer and process them into ketchup and other products for example.  While M-Farm does not provide this information, it goes beyond the simple access of prices by providing a marketplace just an SMS away.  Furthermore, another concern of failed ICT projects is that funding eventually decreases, causing the project to slowly diminish.  Yet, M-Farm has many investors supporting it and is expanding rapidly.

On the other hand, I believe that certain concerns with this project still arise.  For example, do all of these farmers have access to mobile phones?  Do they understand how to use the phones and know how to communicate with the exporters?  These questions are valid when assessing this project.  Yet, despite the various flaws that may be evident in the project, it has been proven to help many farmers in Kenya and continues to grow even today!

Sources:  infoDev Article, Agribusiness Blog


2 responses to “ICT and Agribusiness in Kenya

  • kmurphy318

    I think this is a great topic, especially given our recent class discussions. This seems to be an extremely useful and innovative tool for farmers, but I wonder if it does put those without cell access at a disadvantage, like the plumber example from the video. It will clearly benefit those who have access to the service by reducing their transaction costs, I wonder if they will try to monitor the negative effects of those without the service, and if so how they could even go about measuring this accurately. Either way, this is a great idea.

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