By JAMES KARIUK
Posted Sunday, January 8 2017 at 15:51
Online advertising site OLX has started mobile soil testing in agricultural rich zones ahead of the planting season to provide the right mix of fertilizers bought through its platform. The tests establish the suitability of different types of fertiliser for given locations, said OLX country manager Peter Ndiang’ui. Farmers have been using fertilisers with little regard to the needs of their soils, distorting soil acidity and ultimately affecting crop production.
Mr Ndiang’ui said the right type of fertiliser will address the issues of increased soil acidity from wrong manure use that has seen production on the farms decline. OLX has partnered with Dutch headquartered Soil Cares Ltd to conduct the test through a mobile soil testing lab comprising a truck equipped with equipment for analysing samples to determine the nutrient levels, deficiencies, acidity and the general health.
Previously, farmers would take samples to agricultural research centres and wait for days to get results. But now, it can be done in just three hours. The testing plan comes weeks after the online advertising site established farm input centres to help farmers’ access seeds and fertilisers bought through its platform.
It has opened two centres in Nakuru and Nyandarua dubbed Kilimo Smart OLX centres and expects to open more units in agro-rich zones. This is the latest agro-based product from the firm that is seeking a share of Kenya’s largest industry in a diversification plan for the company popular for connecting buyers and sellers shopping for clothing, electronics and vehicles.
“We rolled out a plan to set up Kilimo smart centres upon realising the key challenges farmers face in accessing farm inputs. Most of the inputs farmers use currently affect the soil fertility and over a period of time they realise a decrease in yields,” said Ndiang’ui.
Continuous use of the Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertiliser has compromised the quality of soil with the research findings released by the Ministry of Agriculture indicating that almost half of the Kenyan soil is not suitable for maize growing.
OLX has also signed a deal with Mavuno Fertilisers that will see farmers buy the input at a 15 per cent discount and Osho Chemicals—which will offer pesticides. The firm last year introduced an agriculture section that allows farmers to sell livestock, especially chickens, cattle, and fresh produce on the online platform. It was expected that lorries collecting farm produce would deliver inputs like fertilisers to farmers at no extra cost.
OLX has also signed a deal with Mavuno Fertilisers that will see farmers buy the input at a 15 per cent discount. To capture a larger share of the agro-sector, OLX recently introduced an SMS service to ease trading on farm produce and inputs because a huge chunk farmers did not have access to the Internet.