Thursday, September 24, 2015

Improving market access for smallholder farmers

By Samuel Nyaga
Access to timely and accurate market information is possible through use of SOKO+. Speaking during a Tree Tomato Value Chain Workshop at Sipili Catholic Church Hall, in Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia West Sub County on September 23, 2015, Mr. Bob Aston from Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) said that SOKO+ enables traders, farmers, and other users to buy, sell, and get information using SMS.
He said that the market access and knowledge management system has harnessed the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) by enabling farmers to efficiently reach and exploit a fair market for their produce through use of mobile phones.
Mr. Aston facilitating the training

“The net effect of use of the service is that farmers can reduce their transaction costs and further reach into desirable markets. The system also links small-scale farmers to end retailers,” said Mr. Aston.
ALIN through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre organized the workshop in collaboration with Kilimo Biashara Promoters and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. 
Sokopepe, a social enterprise established by ALIN to offer services based on online and mobile-based ICT platforms, provides SOKO+ service.
He said that the platform enables farmers to query commodity prices and farming tips using a mobile short code 20245. Farmers also receive SMS-based alerts with farming tips; weather updates and alerts relating to trading opportunities and early warning alerts related to climate, diseases and other hazards.
 “The platform provides commodity prices from major markets around the areas of operation and beyond, e-extension services and a listing of various technical and logistical support providers,” said Mr. Aston.
He said that ALIN has also collaborated with SNV- Netherlands Development Organization to demonstrate and train farmers, teachers, and education officials on how to make use of SOKO+ to harness their linkages and therefore enable schools to provide a consistent; organized and fair market for their produce.
Mr. Charles Keru,Ol-Moran Ward Administrator addressing the participants
SNV is keen to ensure farmers, schools, and the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology harness the power of ICT, to enhance efficiency of trade in farmers’ commodities through Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) by use of SOKO+.
To register to SOKO+; Send SMS: REG#IDNumber#FirstName#LastName and LOC#County#Constituency#Ward to 20245: to inquire for market prices; Send SMS: Price#Commodity#Town, to 20245; and to receive farming tips, Send SMS: Tip#ProductName to 20245.
The two days’ workshop brought together more than 70 farmers drawn from Ol-Moran Ward who had come together to discuss and share best practices on how to enhance farmers production skills on Tree Tomato.
The farmers were addressing various interventions in Tree Tomato Value Chain that included crop risk mitigation, post-harvest handling, local value addition, linkages to markets, aggregation, and value chain linkages.
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