USAID Uses Innovative Model to Reach Rural Kenyan Farmers during the Pandemic
Most farmers in rural Kenya live far from agro-dealer shops in small towns. This makes it difficult for these farmers to access fertilizer, seeds, chemicals and equipment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became nearly impossible for farmers to access these agricultural inputs due to lockdowns that restricted the movement of people and goods.
USAID, through the Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems (KCDMS) project, partnered with agro-dealers to ensure last-mile distribution of critical agricultural inputs that farmers needed to maintain their production during the pandemic. Collectively, these partners were able to reach 6,600 farmers with extension information on inputs in recent months.
During the pandemic, KCDMS shifted its activities to create linkages between county governments and private sector technology providers. The goal was to help them provide extension services through alternative methods, such as radio and call centers, agricultural information systems and SMS text messaging systems.
In Kisumu County, KCDMS and the county government co-invested in an agricultural call center for farmers to receive direct technical advice and referrals to other market actors. In Kakamega County, KCDMS co-created an agricultural management information system with a database of 5,330 farmers to disseminate extension information through a two-way SMS module. The project is scaling up in Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga counties to reach 12,000 farmers by the end of October 2021.
Engaging and empowering youth
The youth involved in KCDMS help drive Kenya’s agricultural market system. In Kenya, youth make up approximately 75% of the population, but they routinely suffer from a lack of employment and economic opportunities.
KCDMS provided 42 youth agro-dealers with training, information and quality inputs. Then, the agro-dealers provided extension services, trained farmers on safe ways to handle the inputs and taught farmers about best use for optimal productivity. Not only did this create jobs and meet a critical need for extension, but it also energized the youth and opened up new opportunities in the agriculture sector.
Exploring new models for input distribution
KCDMS supported nine agro-dealers to engage field assistants — many of them the youth described above — as input delivery agents, trainers and advisors in agronomy, livestock and veterinary services. These agro-dealers utilized the “agent model,” in which they work with model farmers and input manufacturers to create learning centers on various technologies for farmer groups at the village level.
KCDMS has partnered with 11 agro-dealers to co-invest in a franchise model to meet last-mile distribution of essential farm inputs to farmers in rural, underserved areas. Magos Farm Enterprises Ltd., an agro-leader distributor based in Kisumu, co-invested in local franchises. This approach was new to Magos. Magos decided to grant franchise rights to five agro-dealers in rural areas. The company worked closely with its new franchisees to understand their needs and create agreements that meet the local market potential. The agreements needed to be flexible enough for smaller, rural shops with limited cash flow.
Magos created a sales system to keep the shops well-stocked and allowed them to purchase on credit and repay after making sales. Magos has also worked with the shops to help them grow their businesses, training 20 people from the franchise shops on business planning, record-keeping, marketing, customer care, product knowledge, safety and disposals. Lastly, Magos helped the shops to improve — or in some cases launch — their inventory management systems and point of sale systems to increase business efficiency.
Despite the closing of many businesses during the pandemic, Magos tripled their sales in 10 months thanks to the franchise and agent model. This rapid growth allowed Magos to hire 11 new staff members, including eight women and four youth.
With the success seen by Magos and other agro-dealers, KCDMS plans to help more Kenyan agro-dealers grow using the franchising model.
Despite the challenges resulting from COVID-19, KCDMS is creatively helping agribusinesses find ways to continue to grow and thrive. For more information about USAID’s work, visit: https://www.usaid.gov/kenya/documents/kenya-crops-and-dairy-market-syste.
This post was written by Beverly Shitandi (KCDMS) and Sarah Samuel (USAID).