Fortunes change for a Meru Digi-farmer

Scattered-rainfall patterns caused by the rain shadow of Mt Kenya had led one Geoffery Kimathi, now a mixed farmer in Meru County to plant only maize and beans. He was reluctant to the idea of growing other cash crops for fear of incurring losses owing to this rainfall uncertainty.

See also: DigiFarm to revolutionize Kenya’s agribusiness sector

With most of its residents being small-subsistence farmers, growing common cash and food crops such as tea, coffee, maize, potatoes and of paramount importance among the cash crops, Miraa or khat (a popular stimulant) Meru County’s economy heavily relies on agriculture.

Twaweza Live
Geoffery Kimathi at his Farm in Meru County

The limitation to only grow maize & beans is one that may have been costing Geoffery some possible fat profits from other cash crops. The major challenge for him as the case with other farmers in the region, he says, has been lack of access to information, inadequate financing and lack of reliable farm inputs such as fertilizers, sometimes leading to losses or sub-standard harvests.

Geoffery says his fortunes only changed when he heard about DigiFarm service, “Digifarm kwanza, niliskia tu Kwa radio, nika dial *283#, na nimenufaika sana” says Geoffery.

The service has since enabled him to access quick loans, reliable farm inputs, and the much-needed fertilizers.

After subscribing to the service, his farm has become a transformation, he now grows bananas and even snow peas for export. The returns have been so bountiful, that he has even been able to transfer his kids to a private school, he explains delightfully. Challenges like lack of quality fertilizers are now a thing of the past, he continues.

In an effort to  solve some of this challenges, on 20th of June Safaricom in partnership with Iprocure , FarmDrive and Arifu opened four Digifarm depots in the county located at Laare, Nkubu, Mikindori and Meru town to equip the over 100,000 farmers of Meru county with affordable farm inputs , financial advisory services and sustainable solutions for their farming activities.

Rita Okuthe, Director of Enterprise business at Safaricom explains that Digifarm leverages technology to tackle the challenges faced by farmers and also empower farmers with solutions to grow their businesses.

This initiative was the 2nd leg of the telco’s seven-month-long campaign dubbed the Twaweza live experience, initially launched in the county of Uasin Gishu which saw the piloting of the first Digifarm depo at Burnt forest, there’s now a total of 18 Digifarm depots in the country.

As part of Twaweza Live, Meru residents were also treated to a free medical camp at kinoru dispensary grounds which was a partnership with Kenya Diabetes information management center (DMI). The initiative is meant to offer sustainable health solutions, drugs, diabetes checkups, dietary advice, prostate screening among other solutions to residents for free owing to the lack of accessibility to quality healthcare in more than half of all households in Kenya let alone Meru county.

In one specific case, for example, Agnes Kathure (55), a resident of Mikindori in Meru County has been suffering from a back problem. “Nimeenda Meru General, Nkubu na mahali mingi sana lakini bado sija saidika” explains Agnes.

Every time she attends checkup sessions, she receives scans and consulting services with each session costing her an average of seven thousand shillings. Considering the fact that most Kenyans live below a dollar per day, situations like Agnes’s are likely to bleed most Kenyans to extreme poverty.

Twaweza Live
Eighty-eight-year-old Farijiana Marigu gets her tooth checked dentist, by Immaculate Mumbi during a free medical camp by Safaricom at Kinoru dispensary in Meru.

One of the sustainable solutions on offer is MTIBA an innovative health service developed by Safaricom in partnership with PharmAcess and CarePay- a company that has been named technology pioneer by World Economic Forum. The leading mobile health wallet aims to provide cheaper insurance plans to citizens who cannot afford NHIF premiums.

During this ten-day long campaign, the youth of Meru County were kept entertained through roadshows and a grand concert at kinoru stadium on the 23rd of June. In fact, during the material day of the concert, you could tell the mood in town was different, people were excited, the biggest concert in Meru county was about to go down

By nightfall, over 12,000 people had attended the concert, ready to be entertained by their favorite local artists who included funnyman Njugush, Gospel artiste Mercy Masika, King Kaka, ‘mtoto wa mama’ Bahati, Wahu Kagwi and Nyashinski among others.

The zealous crowd was sent into a frenzy especially when Nyashinski performed his hit song ‘short and sweet’ ft. Sauti Sol, a piece that had previously been released exclusively on the Songa Music Platform.

Twaweza Live
Gospel artist Wahu on stage together with Immaculate Kaimuri one of the winners of the Twaweza local talent auditions, at the Safaricom Twaweza Live concert held at Kinoru stadium in Meru.

Just outside the venue, business was booming! from hawkers to motorcycle ‘nduthi’ operators and fast food vendors, this mega concert proved to be a much-needed boost for their daily profits predominantly.

The concert had followed a day-long local untapped talent search activity and auditions attended by over 300 participants on the 19th of June. The auditions saw one Paul Mwangi emerge a winner.

“Kwa performance ya leo, sijawahi kupata motisha kama hii, nashukuru sana kuwa katika Safaricom Twaweza live” said Paul. The aspiring Dj had created his own custom DJ Mixer from wood and scrap material.

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