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Kenya horticulture earn fortunes from digital marketing platform
by Ejidiah Wangui NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s David Kioo almost gave up on horticulture farming last year despite the high octane optimism that informed his decision to embrace an otherwise lucrative venture.

The middle-aged farmer was disappointed by a string of crop failure occasioned by climatic stresses, market volatility and high cost of farm inputs like fertilizers and seeds.

Kioo had earlier resigned from a clerical job and his enthusiasm in horticulture farming suffered a blow due to the numerous hurdles that he encountered.

His reprieve came through a Facebook page called "Kenyan Digital Farmers" which provided a platform for struggling smallholder farmers to learn new survival tips amid huge bottlenecks.

Through this digital platform, Kioo and his peers in horticulture farming are able to exchange vital information on markets, proper agronomic practices, weather and consumer preferences.

"Things are a bit better compared to a few years ago but we still have a long way to go, online platforms such as Facebook rescued some of us who almost gave up on horticulture farming," Kioo told Xinhua during a recent interview.

He confessed that a glut occasioned by oversupply of tomatoes in the local market forced him to feed them to cows.

"I was forced to feed the tomatoes I had just harvested to cows since the market was already saturated with the vegetable and its prices had slumped drastically," said Kioo.

Noah Nashiali, another horticulture farmer from a wealthy Nairobi suburb came up with a novel innovation dubbed Farmerbot to help farmers market their produce directly and evade the onslaught of greedy middlemen.

He noted Farmerbot has revolutionized horticulture farming in Kenya by eliminating brokers who often eat into smallholders’ earnings.

"The idea behind Farmerbot is to give farmers the much needed companion from planting throughout to harvesting and finally to the market," said Nashiali.

He partnered with well wishers to develop Farmerbot several years ago when he used to have a bumper harvest of cabbages yet lacked ready market for them.

"Farmerbot seeks to cushion farmers against unfortunate events like absence of ready market for their produce," said Nashiali.

He noted that Farmerbot gives interested farmers a chance to join a Telegram group, where they meet potential buyers and experts.

"Besides linking up growers with ready markets, Farmerbot provides the farmers with latest information on sound agronomic practices," said Nashiali, adding that many youth who have ventured into horticulture farming are keen to utilize innovations to enhance productivity.

So far, an estimated 2,000 buyers in Nairobi, Mombasa and other major towns are using Farmerbot to order for produce.

Nashiali said that any farmer with a smart phone can upload the Farmerbot application to access information about market trends on real time basis.

He added that cheaper internet connections in rural areas has enabled horticulture farmers to obtain timely information on markets, weather and looming threats like pest and diseases.



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