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Unlocking the Markets:

The use of mobile apps by smallholder farmers in Kenya has helped them to gain access to markets.

unlocking-markets-through-ictA 2013 study entitled Market in their Palms conclusively shows that the use of mobile apps by smallholder farmers in Kenya has helped them to gain access to markets and market information and improved their businesses.

Agriculture plays a key role in reducing poverty. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2008 estimated that growth in the agricultural sector is twice as effective in reducing poverty in developing countries as growth in other sectors. Commercialising smallholder farmers’ production by introducing ICTs would give them better access to markets and boost growth in the agricultural sector.

In Kenya, agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy. According to the Kenyan government’s 2009 Agricultural Sector Development Strategy,agriculture accounts directly for 24% of the country’s GDP and another 27% indirectly as a result of business with the service, manufacturing and distribution sectors. Agriculture is responsible for 65% of Kenya’s total export revenue, and in rural areas it provides work for over 80% of the population. These figures make agriculture the single-most important sector for Kenya’s general economic and rural development.

One of the most persistent problems for smallholders in Kenya’s agricultural sector is accessing information and markets, which prevents them from pushing through commercialisation. But attempts are being made to tackle these problems through the introduction of ICTs, such as mobile phones, the internet and mobile phone applications.

In 2013, I completed a study entitled Market in their Palms, which explored the use of mobile phone applications in Kenya by smallholder farmers to access information and markets. More specifically, I wanted to find out what kind of an effect the use of the apps had on these smallholders’ farming businesses and whether the apps helped them to improve their marketing ability. I explored four key areas while interviewing these smallholder farmers:

· The types of mobile phone apps used by smallholder farmers

· The cost of using the mobile phone apps

· The impact of apps on the smallholder farmers’ access to information and markets

· The impact on smallholders’ production

Type and cost of app

The 12 smallholder farmers in five counties in Kenya (Nairobi, Kajiado, Narok, Nyandarua and Nandi) were interviewed using three mobile phone farming application services: M-Farm, mFarmer and the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS). M-Farm and mFarmer are privately run agri-business companies based in Nairobi and provide a platform for farmers to access markets, information and inputs through their mobile phones. NAFIS is run by the Kenyan Ministry of agriculture. Its integrated mobile app and internet service provides farmers with broader access to key agricultural information, which farmers can access by sending a text message or by calling.

The smallholder farmers used these applications in different ways. The concept of contract buying was important for those using M-Farm, for example. ‘First, I had to send a text to M-Farm with all the information about my produce, its quantity and quality, and the price I would prefer,’ one female M-Farm user in Nairobi county farmer explained. ‘Then I was linked up with a buyer. The buyer and I agreed on the price, the quality and quantity. I then signed a contract with M-Farm, as did the buyer, containing all the information we had agreed on.’

For the other two applications, mFarmer and NAFIS, the process of contacting a potential buyer involves sending a text message through the app containing information about the produce on offer, the price, the quantity and quality, and the area where the farmer is based. Once the information is in the application system, it is sent to other buyers in the system. Interested buyers then contact the farmer directly, after which they can agree on the price, quality and quantity, and the mode of delivery and payment.

The farmers using these two services often completed sales without meeting each other, since payment was made via mobile money payment systems such as M-Pesa. ‘When my produce was ready,’ said a male mFarmer user in Narok county, ‘I would send a text to the number 8988 indicating the number of bags of Irish potatoes I had and the price I was offering per bag. The message was then relayed to interested buyers by mFarmer who could contact the service. mFarmer would then send me the buyers’ details, and from that point on I contacted the interested buyer myself to conclude the business.’

In terms of accessing price information, the farmers simply need to send a text message containing the name of the produce and the city of interest to the service provider. The service then replies with the price of the produce in the particular city of interest. M-Farm, for example, has developed a permanent mobile phone app for Android phones that farmers can download and install on their phones. The app enables them to easily access current price information as long as the phones have internet access. Access to production information via these apps is limited because production information is bulky and accessing it via text messaging is complicated.

Not only did these three apps help farmers gain better access to the market, but all the farmers interviewed agreed that the cost of using these apps was affordable. Sending a text message or making a call through these apps did not cost more than the normal rates for texting or calling in Kenya. The farmers who installed M-Farm on their phones also felt that the cost of accessing price information via the internet was affordable. ‘For me the cost is not an issue,’ a male M-Farm user in Nyandarua county said. ‘Even if the cost goes up a little bit, I would not mind as long as I have better access to markets.’

Overall impact:

unlocking-markets-through-ict-1What difference, if any, has the use of mobile phone apps made to the smallholders’ farming businesses? Has better access to information affected these farmers’ marketing and production? All agreed that these apps made accessing information easier, faster and cheaper. The services were affordable, and communication with buyers and others was faster. Moreover, the information was reliable and current, and so particularly useful for farmers. It enabled them to make quick marketing decisions yielding them higher returns.

‘One of the advantages,’ said a female NAFIS user in Nandi county, ‘is that I now know the prices that my produce is fetching. Even if I still decide to go through a middleman, at least now I know what my produce is selling for, so I can insist on a better price. If he doesn’t like my price, I am now at liberty to tell him to go away since I can access another market more easily.’

The farmers interviewed agreed on an additional benefit. Because the various apps made communication easier, farmers were able to link up and form networks among themselves and with traders. Some even said that these networks have become their main source of information on production.

Thanks to these marketing opportunities, farmers no longer have to rely on middlemen or greengrocers, for example, as they have a larger pool of buyers to choose from. ‘Can you imagine,’ said a male M-Farm user in Nyandarua county , ‘that now I sometimes get more than two responses from different buyers interested in my produce? I then simply choose the buyer who offers me a better price and who accepts that he has to pick the Irish potatoes right here at my own farm at his own cost.’

M-Farm, mFarmer and NAFIS have brought the world closer for these farmers. Previously, rural smallholders had to transport their produce, which was time-consuming given the poor road infrastructure in many rural areas in Kenya. But now, farmers with contracts via M-Farm, for example, can remind buyers about the agreed date of sale as their produce is harvested and also remind them to pick it up. As a result, the produce does not have a chance to spoil, which cannot be underestimated since most of these farmers lack good storage facilities.

The answer to the question I posed in my study Market in their palms? is yes. These three apps have unlocked the door to better market and information access for smallholder farmers in the five Kenyan counties mentioned above. In that sense, the next step is to spread the word of these services to as many smallholder farmers in Kenya as possible. In addition, the interviews have shown that the apps did not encourage smallholders to access agricultural extension services, which is another issue that can be improved on in the future.


Source:” Fredrick Odhiambo, has just completed a Master of Philosophy degree in development studies at Massey University, New Zealand.

Firm helps Flower farms cultivate ‘best-fit’ varieties:

pressman In Summary:

· Through research, farmers get the plant breeds which are suitable for the climatic conditions in their farms as well as what would fetch more in their target markets

Bob Goedemans is a breath of fresh air in the Kenyan horticultural business. He is giving flower farmers the chance to dictate the varieties which they want to cultivate on their farms.

Through crossbreeding in laboratories, pollen grains of different rose flowers are ‘married’ to produce a new plant breed that has the combination of the qualities of the parent plants.

This way, Mr Goedemans has not only managed to give Kenyan flower growers a chance to cultivate what is favourable to their climate but also an opportunity to set their own identity in an increasingly competitive market.

About a decade ago, many of the flower varieties grown in Kenya were being imported from Holland, Colombia or Israel. Unfortunately, most of those varieties could not withstand the local tropical climate and thereby performed poorly in the market.

This was not only a loss to the farmers as they had to invest more in chemicals and earn less, eventually losing out to the competition. Mr Goedemans’ relocation to Kenya from Holland six years ago has brought a symbiotic business relationship between him and the local farmers: he has drawn his satisfaction, both financial and personal, from seeing many Kenyan businessmen who have invested in the million-dollar horticultural business reap handsomely.

Growers have the prerogative to grow the flowers that can withstand the weather conditions in their home area besides the breeds which are acceptable in their target markets.

Former Agriculture minister, Dr Sally Kosgei, who is also the owner of Sosian Flower Company in Eldoret is a frequent visitor of Njoro-based Preesman Limited and so are other firms like Oserian and Primarosa.

Mr Goedemans company is arguably the largest flower breeding centre in Kenya. Currently, it has over 50 tested and certified ready-to-be-grown flower varieties.

He told Money: “All a grower needs to know is his farm’s altitude and other threats such as pests, and we will bring forth a breed that is resilient”.

Before the variety is availed to the market, he said, it will have undergone intensive research.  “There is a team of botanists and agronomists who make sure that only the most suitable brand is brought to the clients,” he said.

Preesman Ltd produces over one million seeds a year and it is from this bulk that the ‘best fit’ varieties are selected. After an agreement has been reached between him and the farmer, he sells the new variety to the grower on condition that he will earn annual royalties from each of his breeds.

The royalties paid by the grower are dictated by a number of factors: “The market demand of that particular flower and the quantity ordered by the (would-be) buyer,” he says.

He explained that the more the demand for that particular flower is in the market, the more royalty the buyer has to pay.

The flowers are given names, which Mr Goedemans says are patented. And in his four-acre farm in Nakuru County, there are flowers called ‘the Pirate’.

But all what Mr Goedemans is doing is not new. The technology has been in existence in Kenya since the late ‘80s, albeit in small-scale. But it has become popular in Kenya because of the collaboration between the scientists behind the crossbreeding and the increasing number of large-scale flower farms.

Most Kenyans interested in flower business have embraced the technology and now have a lot of benefits to show.

Dr Sally Kosgei who is Preesman’s customer said that Kenya’s horticultural status rivals global giants like Colombia and Ecuador and therefore ‘it was about time the gap between the marketing and the science behind the flowers was bridged’.

“Normally, we are just interested in what the flowers will fetch according to the one marketing the flower breed, but actually, when a grower knows the science behind these flowers, he is able to choose what is fit for his farm”, she said.

“It is better than other breeders coming to pitch tent here temporarily and leaving sooner than our curiosity has been satisfied”, she added.

Mr Daniel Moge, the managing director of Kimman Rosses in Elburgon says that Preesman Ltd is a big boost for the growers because it is closer and they can make numerous trips to the farms to acquaint themselves with the process.

“I am assured of having 90 per cent produce from the breeds I request from this company but I may only have 30 per cent had I ordered them from a faraway firm,” Mr Moge said.

Dr Kosgei says that in the past, she and her colleagues had to make trips to Europe scouting for flower breeds. Other flower breeding companies in Kenya include Piet Schreurs, Deruiter, Lex and Stockman-Rozen in Naivasha.

Source: Nation Newspaper.
By VERAH OKEYO Posted Thursday, July 18 2013 at 01:00

Karandile/Passion Fruit Farming:

Filamu hii yaonyesha ukuzaji wa Karandile hapa nchini .Yaweza kutumiwa kwa kufundisha wakulima jinsi wanaweza kutengeneza miche mizuri ya Karandile.Imedhaminiwa na mradi wa PSDA. Mradi wa serikali ya Kenya kwa ushirikiano na serikali ya Ujerumani.
Fliamu pia yaonyesha ukuzaji wa Karandile. kuanzia kutumia mbegu bora iliyokuanzwa katika green house, kuzuia wadudu na magongwa kama blights.
Pia inaonyesha wakulima kwamba soko ya karandile iko kwa vipande viwili, kwa madunda and mbegu bora. Filamu pia inaonyesha kuongeza thamana kwa madunda kupitia maji matamu ya madunda.

French Bean Varieties – Feedback received on Nafis

This is a great site but I think you need to open up a bit more on the varieties on offer especially on Maize and French beans some of the ones indicated especially on French Beans are long outdated like Monel which is no longer on sale at least not from any registered seed seller. Or maybe scrap all the varieites and just offer GAP to grow the french beans and Maize as they the same tretment is required across the board


Lamu District Farmers to make Money from ABE Chillies Production.

Lamu district has a high potential for chili production. Owing to the expected high returns, the chilies will be among the leading cash crops in the district.

The market is guaranteed since buyers, such as Equator products Limited, are already entering into contract farming with willing farmers.

Currently, Equator products are offering a guaranteed price of Ksh 60 per kilo of fresh chilies to contracted farmers.

From half an acre, a farmer is set to make a profit of about Ksh 140,000 from an investment cost of Ksh 85,000.



  • Water source: Rain fed

  • Area under production: 0.5acre

  • Spacing: 1X1 M

  • Plant population: 2000 plants

  • Yields per plant: 2-5Kg fresh chili per year.

  • Yield losses: 2-5%

  • Price per Kg: Ksh 60 (Fresh chilies)







Production costs

Nursery stage





Bed preparation





Manure/ and DAP










watering (labour inclusive)





Field stage
Land preparation





Digging holes





DAP 20kg










Transplanting labour










Top dressing CAN





Labour t/dressing










Pesticides labour





3 Weddings





Harvesting 15/ Kg





Transport costs





Total costs





Total revenue (3800Kg @ 60Ksh)










Profit Margin (%)





Net profit per Kg sold (KSh)





  • The higher costs were taken while the lower production/yields (2kg per plant) were considered.

  • In practice, most of the labour is provided by family; hence the profit margin is even higher.

Welcome to NAFIS

Hello, and welcome to the new website for the National Farmers Information Service – NAFIS.  We are adding lots of useful information, so please check back often. We are also very happy to receive feedback from you and encourage you strongly to write back to us.