Graduate makes digital tool to sharpen farmers

Lizzy Nyakundi a digital farmer takes pictures of Black Night Shade vegetable (Sagaa) before she posts them. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

To boost agriculture and make it attractive to the youth, technology has been cited as an important factor. Despite the sector contributing 33 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), research shows that over 87.5 per cent of farmers are not fully utilising their farms due to lack of access or knowledge on technology. But one man has developed a solution to help farmers improve on their ventures.

Jacob Maina, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Project Planning and Management from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, founded Appcode School after realising that many farmers in rural and other marginalised areas lacked knowledge in Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).

“We developed appcodeschool.com, a farmer’ E-learning platform that equips farmers from the rural and disadvantaged backgrounds with ICT skills that help them increase productivity on their farms, incomes as well as enhance trade among farmers,” says Maina, a self-trained software developer.

How programme works

Maina, 31, says the company, based in Nairobi’s Kahawa Sukari, has so far trained over 2,976 farmers from rural Kenya. 

To get started in the programme, farmers sign up online on the Appcode e-learning system after which they get contacted by an Appcode agent immediately and given access to the content. Once enrolled, the farmer has access to trainings for three months.

“The farmer picks the convenient days and gets training for an hour every day. The farmer also has access to an agricultural officer who takes them through different aspects on farming, the best soils for particular crops, best fertilisers to apply in different seasons for different crops and responds to their queries,” says Maina.

The farmers also get content on value addition, access to new markets, how to package themselves to access credit from microfinances and export market opportunities.

At the end of the course, the farmers graduate and each presents a report on how their farm yields and incomes have increased so that it can motivate other farmers to embrace modern technology. The platform can be accessed through a web browser as well as from the farmers’ mobile phones.

“Our main aim is to enable farmers increase yields by 35 per cent within their first year, increase their incomes by 30 per cent within the first year by learning how to utilise technology to sell their products to urban areas as well as export, reduce farming losses for farmers by teaching farmers’ technologies that they can use to help reduce losses,” said Maina.

He added they charge Sh1,000 per farmer trainee for six weeks (that’s approximately Sh180 per week).

Challenges

Though the uptake is commendable, Maina admits that challenges are there.

“Mistrust among farmers especially when being taught on digital marketing such as how to sell their products online,” says Maina.

The importance of technology cannot be gainsaid.

FarmLink Kenya chief operating officer Michael Kaburi says such programmes are commendable because they make agriculture attractive to young people.

“This technology will attract more people to embrace agriculture especially the younger generation who are staying away from agriculture courses,” says Kaburi.


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