A few years after John Oroko and Gaita Kariuki graduated from college, they found themselves in a world they describe as ‘unfulfilling’.
The duo had graduated from Moi University with engineering degrees, but they could not get jobs they yearned for. They were often holed in office jobs, with meagre pay.
“We decided to partner and do something our hearts desired,” Oroko says, referring to their entry into farming, and development of a platform where buyers can source for produce from small scale farmers.
The two have created the Selina Wamucii platform (named after their mothers), a mobile phone sourcing platform that makes it easier for small scale farmers to find market for their produce.
The farmers in the Selina Wamucii space join by dialing a USSD code on their mobile phones. During registration, they key in their details, such as location, what they are selling, and the prices.
“Once a farmer is registered, we send some of our agents to visit their farms to confirm if they have what they claim, and check on quality,” Oroko says.
Since its inception in 2016, the platform has experienced expansive growth. There was immediate take up and in less than a year, they had 3,156 farmers on board. They are currently selling produce in Africa, Middle East, Europe and Far East.
“We had to temporarily pause admission because we did not have capacity to handle more,” he says, adding that they realised there are many farmers desperately seeking market, and would jump at any digital solution that provides promise of marketing them within and outside the borders.
Work with agents
The penetration of internet and vast use of mobile phone provides opportunities for farmers and entrepreneurs to explore markets that were once locked by physical barriers; and the innovators are urging entrepreneurs to tap into the ever growing digital space. The company has agents who aggregate produce from the farmers and take it to their pack house for grading before they are dispatch to consumers.
On who qualifies, Oroko says farmers are mapped according to the produce they have, location of their farms, and volumes they can produce. Once the produce is keyed into the company’s platform, Selina Wamucii pays the farmers directly through mobile money transfer service and provide a traceability code that traces the produce from farm, to the pack house, all the way to the final consumer. Even though the uptake has been positive, they need funds to expand the platform.
“We need about 1.7 million dollars to put in most of the needed infrastructures. We need a cold house to store what farmers supply, and to employ more agents,” Oroko says.
Recently they got a 100,000 dollar grant which they say they will use to buy of the needed facilities, acquire certification for the farmers to accelerate export, and increase number of farmers and agents.