NAIROBI, KENYA: A new mobile application has been launched in Kenya that is expected to help increase farm yields.
The mobile platform, known as uLima, is the first of its kind in Africa. It provides farmers across the continent with a toolset, information libraries,databases and access to the latest market information.
“uLima provides farmers with access to information on crops, seed, soil, livestock, agri-chemicals, weather updates and market prices, all at their fingertips,” said Sunesh Bhoola, the chief executive officer of uLima.
Addressing the press during the Coffee Trade Fair that was held at the Coffee Research Institute in Ruiru over the weekend, the CEO said they had chosen Kenya as the launching ground because of its advanced technology.
“With this app, farmers would make reference to best farming practices in the world, thereby increasing yields. One unique feature of the application is that it’s a tailor-made solution for each farmer in terms of crop calendars, thereby offering step-by-step assistance from pre-planting to post-harvest,” he said.
According to Mr Bhoola, perpetual food shortages which is not only in Kenya but also other African countries was the key driver behind the development of the app. “It’s something that needs to be addressed, with improved technology, how best can we use this to our advantage into making Africa a food stable continent,” he said.
He appreciated the fact that not only do improved yields mean that farmers can provide for their own families and communities better, but the growing demand for food across the continent means that output needs to increase.
He noted that Africa, despite having vast tracts of land that are available for agricultural usage, remains a net importer of food. This concern, he continued, needs to be addressed, and the ability of farmers to increase their yield is a step in the right direction.
uLima is available for free download via the Google, iOS and Microsoft app stores, or via webpage (www.ulima.co), and for non-smartphone users, via USSD (*693#). Users have immediate access to nine crop libraries, and which will soon be increased to twenty eight including some cash crops, five livestock libraries, real-time localised weather information with weather alerts, and the latest market price information by crop, grade and county. An added key feature is the access to tailor-made crop calendars and farmer forums that allow for shared learning across various crop categories.
“uLima will optimise farming potential,” says Bhoola. “We are providing farmers with all the information they require on a ‘one-stop shop’ platform that we hope will drive efficiency and improve yields, and in so doing, improve farmer livelihoods.”
The launch of the app coincides with the recent sentiments raised by the good research think-tank Tegemeo Institute in a paper titled: Transforming Agriculture for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Livelihoods, which observed that the sector’s transformation must involve shifting from subsistence farming to commercial production, enhancing agricultural productivity to reduce cost of production, as well as increasing profit margins and encouraging production of marketable surplus of diverse commodities.
This, Tegemeo noted, will result into reduced food prices, improved nutrition among the population as well as increased incomes to spend on health and other items.