By Marion Wagaki, Rootooba, 28 August 2020
Kenya is at the forefront of digital innovation and technology adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the country being home to more than 100 distinct Digital for Agriculture (D4Ag) solutions.
Despite the abundance of D4Ag solutions in the country, many struggle to scale up and do not sufficiently add value to the end-users including farmers.
The government says that the expansion of agricultural technology and D4Ag solutions can dramatically improve agricultural income and livelihoods. It has now finalized plans to roll out a digital platform through which at least 200, 000 small-scale farmers can enlist for the supply of farm inputs at affordable rates.
The National e-voucher program and the ministry’s digital strategy has been launched today by the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya at the Ahero Multipurpose Centre in Kisumu County.
Speaking during a virtual press briefing ahead of the launch of the E-voucher Digital Programme, Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga said that farmers in 12 selected pilot counties will benefit from the new system, which was tailored to improve food production. He reiterated that only registered farmers were eligible for the voucher to be issued by respective county governments to facilitate them to access seeds, fertilizer, agrochemicals and insurance from authorized agro-dealers.
The PS said the program was part of the government’s digital agenda that was designed to improve the fertilizer subsidy program adding that at least 1.4 million farmers were targeted by the year 2023 and at least 2,300 agro-dealers would be involved in the provision of the farm inputs to the tune of Ksh 0.7 billion.
In 2008, the government started the subsidized fertilizer program to cushion farmers against high fertilizer prices and help improve productivity. However, over the years, unscrupulous traders colluded with officials at the National Cereals and Produce Board to buy the subsidized fertilizer, repackage it and sell back to farmers at a higher price.
The launch comes after the government in November 2018 proposed to use e-vouchers for farmers to buy subsidized fertilizer from private agro-vet shops, to weed out unscrupulous traders who had infiltrated the distribution chain to cash in on the bureaucratic process at the time.
Rice farmers in Ahero, Kisumu County and Mwea in Kirinyaga County will be the first beneficiaries of the e-voucher for the coming planting season.
The National Value Chain Support Program, simply the E-Voucher Program is a significant part of the country’s digital agenda, which over the last few years has seen an increase in the country’s options for digital tools that aim to deliver efficiencies for agricultural stakeholders, such as smallholder farmers, crop buyers and agribusinesses.
These include the last-mile digital tools that replace manual processes with mobile-based solutions that digitize transactions such as procurement payments, digital receipts and streamline communication between smallholder farmers and agribusinesses. The second is market linkage tools that formalize agricultural value chains by allowing crop producers and buyers to connect through a mobile-based online platform; while the third is direct-to-farmer hubs as “one-stop shops” through which third-party agricultural service providers offer their services directly to farmers registered on the hub, while farmers can take orders directly from buyers.