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Cooperative University launches rural transformation center digital platform

The cooperative university of Kenya (CUK) today launched the Kenya Rural Transformation Centres digital platform (KRTCDP) that will put farmers at the center of a single electronic platform and connect them with all actors along the agricultural sector value chain.

The three year project will benefit Nakuru, Narok and  Baringo  counties with an initial focus on maize, Irish potatoes and dairy farming.

Speaking Monday during the launch, Agriculture Secretary, State department for Crop Development Josephat Muhunyu said modern technology is key and was the only way to bring the youth on board and make them smart farmers.

“This project will be using the digital platform and digital centers where the young farmers can get information and see interest and opportunities in the agriculture sector,” he said.

Muhunyu said there is a need to have aggregated data and confirmed that currently the government is using KALRO as host to big data that is analysed and processed. He said data keeping will be enhanced through multiple partners to enable individuals’ access to what they require.

The project, he added, is in line with the Nation’s development plan, which is, to revive and make the agriculture sector profitable and sustainable for better livelihoods and the effort resonates very well with the aspirations of the new National Government’s Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) 2019-2029.

ASTGS lays out the Special Economic Processing Zones to implement in Kenya to harness agricultural development.

“Strengthening the key agricultural value chains is the way to go and the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) emphasizes as much. The 2023-24 budget is also set to finance agricultural activities with specific emphasis on the value chains. This project is therefore very timely as it seeks to link smallholder farmers to the forward and backward linkages, on the same digital platform,” Muhunyu said.

The government, he noted, has ensured that every ministry and government institution has data and ICT departments and this is because young people are normally impatient and telling them to farm and wait for 8 years before they reap is not ideal, unlike using data platforms.

“The government is in partnerships with many players where there are platforms that youth are exposed to on matters data and also through conferences such as the Agri Africa that is soon being held to showcase what modern innovation technology can do,” he added.

“The digital platform becomes important  because producers will always be linked to the market end and the agribusiness comes on board  as we need the young people to do business not just produce food the way our parents are doing,” Muhunyu said.

The CUK Vice Chancellor Prof Kamau Ngamau said The Kenya Rural Transformation Centers Digital Platform (KRTCDP) Project is being implemented by The Co-operative University of Kenya, with financial support from the African Development Bank (AfDB) through the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA).

“This project will transform the way agriculture is done in the country through bringing resources, access to inputs and also bring in value addition and source markets for farmers,” he said.

The cooperatives, he added, will be agents to implement this project considering there has been lack of information about markets and also post-harvest losses that have seen farmers losing almost 40 percent of their products,” he said.

Prof Ngamau noted that through the transformation centres digital platform project that is designed to enable smallholder farmers to connect to all critical players in the agricultural forward and backward value chains, the shared farmers platform  will be able to easily engage input suppliers, agro-dealers, financiers, insurance agencies, marketers and buyers, among other service providers, on a mobile phone platform.

The project and digital centres, he said, will also attract youth in agriculture and this he noted will be a game changer that will also create jobs. Currently agriculture has an ageing fraternity.

“Youths will be providers of services, there will be creation of jobs and contribution tremendously in the bottom up economic transformation agenda of the government,”Prof Ngamau said.

Joseph Lomodu , manager Lalebo ole- polos dairy society in Narok  said the platform will benefit farmers on getting information especially on markets.

The major challenge with the milk sector, he added, is climate change, noting that as a society they have been affected by climate change and had remained nonoperational for the last eight months.

“We just opened up again last month after the rains started. We are happy we could have some support from this KRTCDP project that will help farmers look into value addition and expand on their business, generate income and give us market options which are usually limited,” he observed.

Lomodu noted that most farmers don’t know where to take products after they harvest and therefore end up selling their produce to brokers at poor rates.

He added that the dairy society moves around 1500 litres of milk per day on a daily basis but has a potential to move 10,000 litres. “We are hoping to expand our infrastructure by buying more coolers and also machinery for value addition. Looking at the weather now there is potential for getting more milk therefore we are hoping that this programme will build the capacity of farmers through access to information on markets.”

The KRTCDP project aims to increase productivity by connecting farmers with private sector actors, enhance linkages between upstream, midstream and downstream agriculture value chain activities within the next three years.

 By Wangari Ndirangu

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