Farming In The Digital Era
Samuel Mutua, a farmer from Makueni, has practiced fruit farming for over 15years now. His parents were mango and banana farmers, but Mutua has also introduced passion fruits and oranges on his 10-acre piece of land that he inherited from his parents.
He is excited that it is the mangoes harvest season, although, according to him, this season did not yield much. His other disappointment is that he fetches very little from his produce. He tells Kilimo Insight that he sells his produce to brokers, who later export the fruits, but they pay too little for them.
Farmers outcry for low prices for their produce is not unique to Mutua, or fruit farmers. It the same script across many regions and sectors in the country from poultry, dairy, potatoes, vegetables, maize, and many other sectors.
Among the key challenges that farmers in Kenya face today include lack of markets for their produce, use of outdated technology, high production costs, low prices for their produce, poor infrastructure, climate change, among others. However, if farmers are equipped with the right information, all these challenges can be easily managed.
The use of technology in agriculture to provide information and networks between farmers, markets, and organizations that add value to the farmers is one such example. In this digital era, online platforms have the potential to transform into ‘market places’ and ‘virtual meeting places’ to match the demand and supply of goods and services.
Farmers and organizations are able to connect easily through online platforms, and conduct business, research, highlight innovations and exchange ideas. This has allowed users and professional suppliers to target global markets while still being rooted to their respective local economies.
AgriPro Focus (APF) for instance, is an online business network platform, that has created a community where farmers, agribusinesses, civil societies, knowledge institutes and governments, come together to find new and sustainable ways of creating an impact in agriculture and promoting food Security; by exchanging perspectives and cultivating collaborations through associations.
The multi-stakeholder network, which is active in 13 countries in Africa and South-East Asia, links approximately 23,000 agribusiness professionals worldwide with organizations with interests in agriculture.
APF further provides an avenue for users to market their products, service expertise, highlight innovations and create a space where communities from various countries are able to discuss policy issues in agriculture.
In an interview with Kilimo Insight, Sharon Anyango, the Communications Coordinator at AgriPro Focus Kenya noted that most of their users and professional entities have connected with their target audiences through APF and or events organized by the Kenyan team for the purpose of development, growth and possible partnerships.
Sharon further notes that signed in users are also able to enjoy benefits such as market visibility on global and local markets, unlimited information access and fair chances to partner with desired organizations.
Other than connecting farmers to markets, increasing quality, quantity, sustainability and cost-effectiveness, digital farming in general has far reaching benefits. A study conducted in 2015 by a UK Innovation Foundation, Nesta, stated that farmers adopting digital farming techniques can increase their profits by between 7.1 and 76.3 per cent.
Kilimo Insight will in the coming days bring you the different digital technologies that will change your farming habits for the better.