Monday, May 20, 2024
Home > Agriculture > Adoption of ICT innovations to empower small holder farmers

Adoption of ICT innovations to empower small holder farmers

About 15,000 small-holder farmers from Nakuru County will profit from an ICT innovations programme geared towards enhancing their connectivity and access to accurate and timely agriculture information that will impact agriculture value chain efficiency and productivity and income.

The programme, according to County Agriculture Chief Officer, Mr. Kibet Maina, is a partnership between the County Government of Nakuru and the African Centre for Women, Information and Communications Technology (ACWICT), and aims at training the farmers on various mobile and web apps targeting agricultural oriented advisory and information services, market linkages, financial access, and supply chain management among others.

He said the venture was informed by the growing need among Kenyan farmers to use and implement ICT solutions in order to create linkages with existing and potential markets that would offer good prices for their produce while reducing post-harvest losses.

The chief officer observed that although ICT was not well developed in the country’s agricultural sector, it should be embraced as it is the driving force, not only in farming but also in other related sectors such as agricultural industrialization.

According to Kibet the county departments of Agriculture, livestock, and fisheries have selected a number of trainees from the 11 sub-counties, who will be dispatched to their respective sub-counties as Trainer of Trainers (ToTs) and who are being equipped with skills on ICT-based interventions that have the potential to empower smallholder farmers by enhancing their connectivity and increasing access to accurate and timely agriculture information.

The training, he added was also taking into account the influences of mobile technologies in agribusiness including mobile banking and remittances, access to loans, online retailing, and notice of product recalls.

While acknowledging the existence of hundreds of digital platforms and applications technologies aimed at improving productivity and boosting climate-smart agriculture, Kibet regretted that most farmers had no access to such information and said there was a need to explore ways how to share the knowledge in an easy and user-friendly way.

He said of the 8.6 million farmers in Kenya, 81 percent are smallholder farmers who have less than 3 acres of land and who could benefit greatly from ICT-driven applications and knowledge to improve their farming practices.

While noting that in some areas of the devolved unit post harvests losses attributed to pests and diseases have ranged from 70 percent to 100 percent, Kibet said the county had set up 45 plant clinics spread out in all the 11 sub-counties through an interactive platform accessible in smart and low-end phones, experts (plant doctors) diagnose pests and diseases and advise farmers accordingly.

The plant clinics which are all now fully operational were put up in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), University of Nairobi and the Pest Control Products Board.

The Chief Officer further noted that farmers can access fast hand information on best farming practices from agricultural experts at Nakuru Farmers Call Centre via Short Message Service (SMS), Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, and calls, complementing the work of agricultural extension officers in the area.

“Food security can only be attained if farmers are equipped with the necessary knowledge”, said Kibet.

He said farmers making use of such applications have an easier time accessing their farms’ information and records regardless of their location away from their farms. Marketing of produce, which he mentions as the task in which it is intensively employed, is also made a lot easier through ICT-driven trading platforms.

Increased adoption of ICT, Kibet said was now drawing youths to farming and agricultural practices while providing them with access to market information, pest and disease control practices, production techniques, new technologies, and financing opportunities.

According to Executive Director at African Centre for Women, Information and Communications Technology Ms. Constantine Obuya existing setbacks in farming such as poor agricultural practices, low-quality inputs, and lack of access to knowledge, credits, and markets were being worsened by new challenges such as climate change, emerging pests and new disease patterns and shifting demographics.

She said in addressing these challenges, a transformation in agriculture was needed in which data that could lead to better and more timely and actionable knowledge would play a major role.

“By embracing a combination of mobile and web services farmers’ access to extension services and market information improves. This reduces the costs of searching for market information and provides real-time weather and extension advice to farmers to make informed decisions,” said Ms. Obuya.

Ms. Obuya said that seeds, fertilizer, and animal feeds, among other farming inputs can now be purchased easily online and delivered to the farmers through courier, saving the farmer time and expenses, while mobile money transfer platforms come in handy for making the payments for the purchases.

By Esther Mwangi and Elkhakim Hussein

Leave a Reply