Thursday, October 10, 2013

Online marketing to benefit small holder farmers

By Bett Kipsang'
 Sokopepe, the online market access portal introduced by ALIN, is gradually turning around the way small holder farmers do business in Ng’arua. ‘‘I went to Nyahururu to inquire for the price of Lima beans (Noe) harvested by my group's members, I found out that the selling price was Ksh 80 per kilo’’ said Peter Mwaniki, the chairman of Umoja Wendani self help group. 

Members of Umoja Wendani Group and near their store
Mwaniki left the market wondering what price they could sell their product if they were to supply to that trader. ‘‘I left the market without asking more questions’’ he said. Luckily enough he had already uploaded on the Sokopepe portal a photo, price and quantities of Lima beans available for sale. Though he was not sure of the selling price in Nairobi, he was very sure that the price was not less than Ksh 100 per kilogram. Kibe a Nairobi resident visited the site logged on to Sokopepe and spotted the product displayed for sale. 

 His tongue started wagging and saliva streamed from his mouth as he remembered the sweet delicacy his mother usually makes out of the precious beans. “I called my mother to ask how many kilograms she needed’’ said Kibe, who would later place an online order for five Kilograms on Sokopepe.  

 The order was picked by an aggregator based at the Ng’arua Maarifa Centre; he then contacted Mr. Peter Mwaniki, who brought five kilograms of Noe. The aggregator inquired for the selling price of the commodity in Nairobi and within minutes, Mwaniki was earning Ksh 150/Kg  up from the Ksh 80 offered at the local market. “I wouldn’t mind paying higher if that money was going to farmer who did the hard work of production’’ said Kibe.

 Umoja wendani self help group has 23 members; they practice livestock farming and grow different food crops like Dolichos, Lima beans, Grain Amaranth, Maize and beans among other subsistence crops.

 They have faced a myriad of challenges ranging from lack of access to better markets and they are often forced to sell to local consumers despite offering low prices. 

Lima Beans spread to dry in the sun.
 Lima bean is a drought tolerant high value indigenous crop. It is one of the most nutritious known edible beans. Umoja wendani had planted half an acre for the group and each member had their own at home. Though the crop was joked in water locked soil, the group managed to harvest two bags of ninety Kilograms each. If they sold all the stock at Ksh 150/Kg, they will still make a profit of fifteen thousand, which is relatively good considering that the crop matures in four months.  

‘‘Lima beans have many advantages over other conventional crops’’ said Noah Koinet, who is in charge of agribusiness in Sipili division. It is an indigenous crop valued for its high nutritional content. Survival rates for Lima beans are also commendable since it can withstand hash weather and climatic conditions as compared to crops like maize. Propagation of Lima beans is easy. A farmer just need to dry them and select the best quality for seeds. 

 Koinet observed that there was slow adoption of indigenous crops among farmers due to the commercial nature of conventional crops. "Slow adoption of indigenous crops among farmers makes it difficult to market due to insufficient quantities" He said.

‘‘There is need to change the attitude of farmers towards indigenous crops’’, said Elcy Kigano who is the divisional agriculture staff in charge of home economics.  

 Farmers in Sipili are upbeat over the use of Sokopepe to access market. ‘‘I will advice all our members to increase the land sizes under Lima beans’’ said peter Mwaniki. All the members of Umoja Wendani are registered on Sokopepe; they use the system to access farming tips and prices from different locations.
Mwaniki also observed that they were exploring if there was any ways to add value to the crops.

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