ICT Platform Brings Services Closer Home

Originally published on February 22, 2016.

Smallholder farmers in Mukuyuni and Makueni County often travel as far as fifty kilometers to access farm inputs and services. Apart from the geographic obstacle, the erratic supply of farm inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, dewormers, knapback sprayers, animal feeds and mineral supplements have driven prices up – making them inaccessible to many smallholder farmers.

To address this challenge, the Kenya Semi-Arid Livestock Enhancement (K-SALES) project trained 900 Business Service Providers (BSPs) in the region on various aspects of business management. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, the trainings covered topics on business planning, financial management, marketing and after-sale services.

Together with Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine (KIE) – a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development – K-SALES is bridging the gap between farmers, BSPs and input suppliers by using a product called iProcure. Commonly referred to as the “last mile distribution platform,” iProcure is a technology that leverages telecommunications platforms and social infrastructure to introduce efficiency into the supply chain. The innovation aims to improve the accessibility of essential farm inputs to smallholder farmers by eliminating economic and geographic barriers.

Without the trainings and the forums I attended, I would still be stuck with my 'little sales'.

Ann Kioko (iProcure User and Manager, Malika Agrovet)

By operating on both web and mobile platforms, an agent network assesses farm input demand and links needed products to wholesalers (suppliers) operating in that region. By monitoring and predicting based on historical patterns, this process ensures that there is always a steady supply of inputs available to smallholders.

Ann Kioko, a Manager at Malika Agrovet in Mukuyuni – is one supplier that has been linked to iProcure through K-SALES. For people like Ann, using iProcure not only helps her keep the cost of her products low, but also allows her to reach more farmers by simply hiring a motorbike for deliveries. She is also working with K-SALES colleagues to streamline orders during their regular visits to targeted locations for Farmer Field Schools. This helps ensure that there is no dead stock in her agrovet.

Ann has been using iProcure for the past five months, and has since seen a 40 percent increase in her sales. She has also been introduced to financial institutions: Kenya Commercial Bank, Universal Traders Sacco and Kenya Women Financial Trust and has yet to choose a loan provider. With the loan, Ann would like to open more branches of her Agrovet in order to reach more smallholder farmers in the area.

All these efforts are part of a larger goal to improve the competitiveness of the meat value chain by increasing agricultural productivity and boosting marketing and trade across the region.

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