Inside Kenya’s new digital strategy to lift agriculture

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Kenya has launched a digital-for-agriculture (D4Ag) project that is targeting to register 1.4 million farming households online and 2,300 agro-dealers to supply farm inputs to growers by 2023.

The government, according to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, plans to shift all the farming activities online as a way of locking out brokers, curbing loss of subsidised inputs and enhancing productivity.

Kenya is home to more than 100 distinct D4Ag solutions accounting for 25 percent of the technologies in the region.

“Data and digital solutions play an important enabling role in this transformation and is necessary in supporting the sector to achieve its primary objectives of increasing small-scale farmer, pastoralist and fisher folk incomes for 3.3 million households and impact 15 million Kenyans,” said Mr Munya.

The government plans to launch other electronic solutions such as digital food balance sheet, Kenya integrated agricultural information system and the big data centre where data on the state of the country’s food security can be found.

Out of the 100 distinct D4Ag solutions in Kenya, nearly all are driven by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), which advise farmers on digital uptake.

Kalro has three e-agricultural platforms, including the Kenya Agricultural Observation Platform (KAOP) website and 30 mobile apps covering 30 value chains.

Kenya, says the government, is at the forefront of digital innovation and technological adoption to achieve the 10-year Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS).

Under the strategy, the government will create a vibrant, commercial and modern agricultural sector that supports 100 percent food security.

A fortnight ago, the Ministry of Agriculture launched the agricultural digital strategic roadmap and the national value chain support e-voucher programme (NVCSP) in Kisumu County.

The e-voucher that is being piloted in 12 counties is designed to tame cartels manipulating distribution of government sponsored farm inputs such as fertiliser.

The first phase will cover 200,000 farmers. The second face will add 17 more counties with all the regions expected to be covered in the next two years.

SELECTED AGROVETS

Under the e-voucher plan, a number of selected agrovets will be registered under the deal.

Farmers will be issued with the vouchers through their mobile phones on validation by the extension officers.

After which they are given a pay bill number to which they will make payment and receive a text message confirmation from Safaricom.

“Farmers will take the message to registered agro-dealers and they will be given the farm inputs that they require,” said Joseph Komu, project co-ordinator of the national value chain support.

Once a farmer pays for inputs, the government will pay the balance to the dealer.

Through this programme, the farmer will pay 40 percent of the entire cost while the government takes up the remainder.

The State has developed a digital agriculture strategy that is anchored in seven priority digital use cases. These cases seek to accelerate registration of eligible farmers for e-incentives such as the e-voucher programme.

The agriculture tech strategy further seeks to provide customised extension services on digital platforms — from receipt of a simple SMS to an interactive mobile application that monitor emergency food reserve stocks using the national food balance sheet.

EARLY WARNING

To make more dynamic trade and consumption decisions using an early warning system in response to food price inflation and to support effective monitoring and evaluation, it will be reporting back on what is working on the ground.

The total cost of the digital solutions has been put at Sh2 billion by 2023, representing 10 percent of the cost estimated for ASTGS enablers, with development partners releasing at least Sh300 million to date.

An additional Sh3.4 billion is required for disbursing the e-incentives if the existing Sh5 billion allocation in the ministry budgets for input support programmes is reallocated to the proposal.