Cashew Farmers Adopt Online Payment System To Beat Brokers

Construction of a cashew nut factory in Kilifi County. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Coastal cashew growers have set up an online payment platform to get rid of brokers blamed for woes that brought down the region’s once thriving industry.

The more than 15,000 farmers in Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale counties also recently signed a purchase agreement with the nut processor, Ten Senses Africa Limited, to purchase their produce.

Yesterday, Ten Senses Africa Limited partnered with Safaricom to create a robust subcontractor management system anchored on blockchain technology.

The online system will register all farmers, each using an ID card number as their access code. After registration, farmers would deliver their produce to a cashew collection center where automated weighing machines were installed to automatically transmit all the details of each transaction to an individual farmer in real time and payment made instantly on his Mpesa account.

With the collapse of cooperative societies in the early 1990s, brokers dominated the industry, buying direct from farmers at very low farm gate prices and selling to processors.

This led to the decline of the sector as farmers could not venture into commercial agriculture in the sector due to low income.

“The new technology facilitates the direct sourcing and traceability of cashew products, from producer to end consumer. In addition, being a social enterprise specializing in organic farming and fair trade, farmers will get higher prices for their products, ”said Frank Omondi, Managing Director of TSA, when the company yesterday opened the purchase of cashew nuts to farmers for this season at the Kilifi factory site. .

The two partners also provide cashew farmers with one-stop access to obtain agricultural inputs on loan which are also applied on a mobile loan and immediately accessible in the form of vouchers that farmers can use to procure agricultural inputs from the farmer. ‘one of the 50 agro-stores set up by the program.

A farmer can get a loan of up to 500,000 shillings depending on the number of trees on the farm, the partnership agreement says.

The loan also covers other crops such as corn, coconut and green grams. Farmers will use the facility for clearing and preparing land, planting and purchasing seedlings.

With the platform, dubbed DigiFarm, farmers will also benefit from insurance yield coverage to protect them against unforeseen losses.

Partners will also provide extension services to registered cashew farmers through remote agronomists stationed at the DigiFarm call center or in the field – DigiFarm Village Advisors (DVA), through farmers grouped into groups. of 200 at the village level.

DigiFarm, a subsidiary of Safaricom PLC, is an integrated mobile platform that brings together farmers, buyers, input suppliers, service providers, agronomists among other actors.

“This enables smallholder farmers to access cell phones, agronomic information, farm finance support services, links to markets and agricultural inputs,” said Omondi Kasidhi, DigiFarm director at Safaricom, adding that it has over 1.3 million registered farmers in the country.

TSA is building a cashew processing plant in Tezo, Kilifi County, which will be ready in February next year when the harvest season begins. It will have a processing capacity of 5,000 metric tonnes per year.

According to Omondi, equipment and machinery from Vietnam will arrive in the country in two weeks. India and Vietnam process over 70 percent of Africa’s nuts, and according to Omondi, Kenya will also apply their models to create more than 1,000 jobs in this labor-intensive sector.

The project is the culmination of a four-year trip that was funded by the European Union (EU) to the tune of 240 million shillings to revive a once thriving cashew sector. Next year, the plant will process the first bundle of nearly one million seedlings that have been distributed to 15,000 organic farmers in the three counties during the life of the project.

The program also rehabilitated more than 3,000 old trees, in what is technically known as working at heights by removing old and unproductive branches. This, according to Omondi, has increased their production tenfold and the harvest will provide raw materials for the new factory.

The revival project is a partnership between the EU and the countries of the Visegrad Group (v4) of the Slovak, Czech, Hungarian and Polish governments to plant more than one million new seedlings by providing material and other support to the 15 000 farmers registered to practice organic farming.

In addition, the program also supports 150 schools which have planted 72,000 seedlings. 200,000 high-quality grafted plants will be distributed to selected high schools and primary schools. Schools will also be integrated into the new program.

The school’s program is mutually beneficial, providing schools with alternative sources of income, equipping students with practical farming skills, supporting the country’s greening program by planting additional trees to help mitigate the challenges of adverse effects of climate change, ”Director David Ogiga said the program manager at Ten Senses, adding that this was important for the sustainability of cashew production when aging farmers have pulled out of the business.

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