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4 of the most successful Mobile apps in Kenya.

An increasing number of young Kenyans are developing software, apps and cellphone-based programmes to help small-scale farmers increase their agricultural skills and yields. At the most recent PivotEast, East Africa’s premier mobile start-ups competition and conference, held in June 2012, three out of five finalists were young entrepreneurs who had created agrarian apps.
In whole, Kenya is proving to be a hot ground for mobile innovations, here are some of the five most well known.

1. M-Farm.
M-Farm is one of many services that have been developed in the last five years on the back of Kenya’s lead in information and communications technology (ICT), particularly mobile phones. With more than 6 400 farmers in its database, farmers couldn’t have asked for anything better. Three young software developers in their early to mid-twenties started the company in 2011 to provide market prices to
farmers. Previously, Mwangi, a farmer, sold his maize to brokers that arrived with trucks and dictated the maize price. He had no way of finding out the actual market price and often felt cheated. Now, not only does he know how much he can demand but he is able to come together with other farmers and command higher prices.

In addition to the price information, M-Farm offers farmers the chance to sell their crops collectively and to buy their seed, fertilizers and other inputs together, simply by using their mobile phone or logging on to the M-Farm website. Each M-Farm agent aggregates the produce of about 100 farmers and sells it as one lot. The agents also sell seeds, fertiliser and other inputs in bulk at discount prices. Everyone gains as the farmers earn more for their crops and the bulk buyers and sellers reduce the number of farms they visit.

M-Farm collects wholesale market price information on 42 crops in five markets in Kenya: Nairobi, the capital; Mombasa, on the coast; Kisumu, Eldoret and Nakuru in the west. In Kenya’s central Kinangop region, farmers who sold collectively more than doubled their receipts for produce such as snow peas and sugar snap peas, says M-Farm’s Wambua.

2. iCow
Another mobile phone service is iCow. One of its products helps beef farmers track their cows’ gestation periods to increase livestock numbers. Farmers use an SMS code to register their cows and their insemination date. The service then sends SMS prompts to the registered farmer on the expected date for calving, or the best days for new insemination. The service also sends weekly SMS messages to subscribers with tips on breeding, nutrition, milk production efficiency, and other best dairy practices.

iCow also posts the location of the nearest veterinarian or artificial insemination specialist on its website, or sends farmers an SMS with the information. Through its iCow Soko (market in Swahili) farmers can trade livestock and livestock by-products on their cellphones.

3. Kilimo Salama
Another web and mobile-based tech programme is Kilimo Salama, which means “safe farming” in Swahili. Run by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), part of a Swiss agribusiness operating in 90 countries, in partnership with UAP Insurance of Kenya, and Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest mobile network operator, it offers crop insurance against drought or excessive rains. Smallholders purchase cover through local agro-dealers while buying their seeds, fertiliser and insecticides.

4. M-Pesa
Safaricom's M-Pesa, a mobile phone money transfer system, has been at the forefront of Kenya’s agri-technological innovations. About half of Kenya’s estimated 43 million people use M-Pesa. Not only can farmers make and receive payments for seeds and crops, but financial institutions, such as savings and credit co-operatives and microfinance schemes, can disburse loans and collect payments. Almost all financial institutions in Kenya now offer M-Pesa services. Coupled with the company’s saving and credit service, M-Shwari (cool or calm in Swahili), M-Pesa is also bringing farmers into the formal banking system.

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