Before the invention of mobile phones, smallholder farmers had to rely on traditional methods for generations to predict events such as rains. With the rise in technology, apps such as iShamba have been launched to help farmers get tips on crops and livestock, market prices and weather updates at the comfort of their homes. According to 2016 research published in the Journal of Mobile Computing and Application, mobile agricultural apps show significant potential for the modernization of the agricultural sector both in developed and developing countries. For example, they can contribute to increasing the income of small-scale producers, reducing the transaction costs in supplying and distributing products, improving traceability and quality criteria for consumers, as well as providing new opportunities for financial institutions. Mobile apps contribute to increased income for smallholder farmers, reduced transaction costs in the supply chain and improved traceability and quality criteria for consumers.
iShamba is a mobile phone-based platform that allows farmers to send short message service questions or speak to an expert for instant help at one shilling per message. In this, farmers can SMS all their farming questions to 21606 on any day of the week and get advise from iShamba team of farming experts.
On receipt of the message, a customer care person from the platform will call the farmer to get information on their physical location of the farm, livestock reared, crops grown among other details.
The company then uses the data to give farmers appropriate farming tips based on where they come from.
A farmer rearing chicken, for instance, will get to know when to vaccinate them, those growing maize will be advised on when to top dress and livestock keepers will get the best management tips from experts
Farmers can also sign up on ishamba.com for premium and free services. For premium, they pay Sh899 per year to get services such as access to iShamba WhatsApp groups, weekly, monthly and seasonal weather updates, alert on farmer events such as shows and training in your area, marker prices and SMS from iShamba partners. Free services include access to call center experts, weather updates and market prices on request and access to iShamba SMS question service.
The platform aims to bridge the information gap that hinders production by smallholder farmers in Kenya by connecting over 350,000 profiled iShamba farmers.