By Zablon Oyugi
Two Wajir County youth have created an online platform to enable smallholders especially pastoralists in arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya access vet services, meet buyers and sell their livestock further improving their income.
M-nomad, a livestock marketplace web platform is the first product of Geljir Technologies Limited, a social enterprise firm that Ibrahim Ahmed, 32, and Abdirahman Abdullahi, 31 founded in April 2019 to engineer innovative solutions in the livestock sector in the country and beyond.
“We grew up in the northern Kenya where during rainy season we could see our parents lose their cattle, our livelihood, to disease outbreaks while in dry season, to pangs of drought as they watch helplessly due to lack of proper advisory, veterinary services and market information prompting us to come with a solution,” said Ibrahim Ahmed, co-founder, and CEO of Geljir Technologies.
Previously the two worked in media industry in the country for two to three years, a period they could interact with shocking stories of how pastoralists communities in Kenya are still losing their main source of income and livelihood to the dire environmental occurrences.
“In 2018, we started doing some research about Kenya livestock sector and how we can solve this ourselves. We realized how we can use technology to solve these challenges and because we did not just want to make profit, we came up with a social enterprise that is impact-driven,” said Ahmed.
According to the former journalist, Geljir Technologies was started by their savings that they spent on the research and initial prototype of the technologies before partnering with a reputable technology firm in the country to help them build the online infrastructure with the deal that the firm will have a share in their company.
“Our original plan was aimed at improving the lives of pastoral communities in Kenya and Africa by using modern technology to solve their challenges.”
The idea was to test the market with urban pastoralists and livestock traders who have access to the internet before developing other technologies and to their amazement the feedback was incredibly positive.
“We are following this with a USSD and SMS platform where we want to reach the rural pastoralists who use feature phones and have no internet access,” said Ahmed.
So far, Geljir’s M-nomad has registered 42 sellers and is working with livestock groups and livestock organizations in North eastern Kenya that represent more than 5,000 pastoralists.
The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that about 60 per cent of the livestock population is found in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) where the industry employs nearly 90 per cent of the population.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ Economic Survey 2019, the value of marketed livestock and livestock products increased by 8.3 per cent to Sh146.8 billion in 2018, a clear indication that there is huge demand for livestock and livestock products.
For Kevin Njau, a trader in Thika Town who uses the platform, he has been able to save up to Sh5,000 on transport besides being able to meet genuine and reliable livestock owners whom he has been dealing with for long now.
“I used to spend Sh30,000 on transporting a lorry of cattle to my base in Thika but now Geljir is providing logistics at Sh25,000 in addition to formalising the market through M-nomad,” said Njau.
How M-nomad system works
Once on m-nomad.co.ke, a seller (animal owner) is required to click sell, fill the product information, and set the price of the product, which in this case is the livestock to be sold.
Geljir team then moves promptly to verify the seller’s information and the seller is included in the system upon qualification.
As a buyer, the user is required to fill the information of the desired product from the categories provided of which the company’s cloud-based system matches the buyer with his or her preference.
Users (seller and the buyer) are then allowed to engage in a transparent and free marketplace where the seller closes deal faster and buyer matched with reliable supply.
When all is done, Geljir through M-nomad facilitates the logistics and delivery which has been a problem in livestock marketing and cuts a commission before paying the seller within 48 hours of the sale through their phone.
“This eliminates the middlemen by connecting smallholder pastoralists who are the livestock producers directly to bulk buyers and meat processing companies, and thus eliminating costs in the selling chain – seeing smallholders get better prices, and buyers benefiting from better prices too,” said Abdirahman Abdullahi Co-founder, Director of Innovation and Business Development.
The same way, M-nomad system enables pastoralists to access quality inputs, vaccines and veterinary services through a franchise model being put in place by the company. This reduces livestock disease and mortality rate and enable them to run sustainable livestock operations.
Today, the young firm which has six employees and targeting to employ about 50 in the next two years has millions of sales deals underway with a Sh30 million turnover projection in the next six months.
“In the next few years, we see our company bringing impact to smallholder pastoralists in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands of Kenya. Whether it’s increasing profit for them through direct link to markets, accessing input and vaccine through credit or giving them customized training and information. We are hoping to change the livestock keeping system of our fathers’ generation to a more commercially viable livestock system,” said Abdullahi.