By Zablon Oyugi
The Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) has introduced a digital platform designed to address various challenges faced by small scale farmers, including limited access to finance, quality inputs, the impact of climate change, inadequate storage facilities, and market accessibility.
Dubbed “e-granary,” the farmer services platform aims to enhance the living standards of smallholder farmers in Kenya by increasing their incomes and promoting financial inclusion. To achieve this, farmers are organised into cooperatives or business clusters, enabling them to efficiently manage value chains and the products they work with.
“Our approach is slightly different because we have said, as small farmers, if you look at the markets, markets have owners, even the markets in our countries, in our capitals that are agricultural markets, they have owners. It’s very difficult for farmers to get onto that market and do business,” said Philip Kiriro, a member of the EAFF Board, explaining the unique approach of the initiative.
“So, we said, why don’t we establish our business line through value chains, by organising ourselves and agreeing that we need to collectively make sure that we dominate one important segment of agri-food business – aggregation,” he added.
This innovative approach has yielded benefits for farmers, who have also garnered support from the private sector. Collaborations with off-takers ensure that the farmers’ produce has a reliable market.
How e-granary operates
Farmers can use the e-granary platform by registering with their phone numbers, which serve as both contact information and mobile wallets.
Upon delivering their produce to warehouses, farmers receive payment on credit at a rate of 100 per cent, assuming a low-grade quality for the grains. Each batch of grains is tagged for traceability, and any changes in the grade are communicated back to the farmers.
As the harvest progresses, prices increase, and the extension of credit to farmers is determined based on factors such as expected price surges, the new grade of their produce, and their credit scores.
E-granary manages the sale of the grains to output traders and, after deducting outstanding loans, interest charges, and warehouse fees, disburses the remaining amount to the farmers.
Support from suppliers
Farmers have also found support from suppliers of farm inputs. They collaborate with lobby groups to ensure the efficient supply of fertilisers and seeds, saving costs, ensuring quality input, and timely delivery to farms.
Access to finance and risk mitigation
E-granary has enabled farmers to access tailor-made financial products and to address risks through discussions with insurance companies.
“For example, Vision Fund has microfinance, and we worked with them in Kenya. It got to a point where they started reducing the interest rate specifically for farmers because they saw the larger benefits that emanate from us aggregating farmers,” said Mr Kiriro.
E-granary has facilitated government support for agricultural projects. In Kenya, the platform has engaged with county governments to energise agribusiness, given the devolved nature of agriculture.
With support from AGRA’s Financial Inclusion for Smallholder Farmers in Africa (FISFAP) programme, e-granary has successfully collaborated with farmers in Meru cooperatives, Nakuru, Trans Nzoia, Bomet, and Narok.
This initiative is poised to make a substantial impact on the lives of smallholder farmers in the region