Improving agribusiness in Kenya by fostering a profitable agribusiness model

International Projects and Consultancies Director Diederik de Boer visited Kenya to be present at the final conference to conclude the by MSM managed 3-year Telephone Farmers’ Project.

The Dutch Government funded project started back in 2015 out of the necessity to improve the market position of medium farms in Kenya – the so –called ‘missing middle’. Because for the smaller farms it was becoming more and more difficult to compete with larger commercial farms. Therefore, it was important to think on how to improve the market position of a middle segment.  An important group of these middle size farmers are so called telephone farmers.

A Telephone farmer is a farmer who remotely manages their farming operations. They are investors in farming.

“When I bought the farm, I was a pure telephone farmer which means that I sad in my office in Nairobi where I had a job and had workers on my farm. They would call me and tell me about the products and equipment they needed and what we had to think about. I was basically operating the farm blind and would visit once every other weekend.” – Shiru Mwangi, Antena Holdings Limited

The project started with studying and characterizing 17 telephone farmers. Looking into: what motivates them? How do they do business? What are the challenges they are facing? And what opportunities do they have? After this study was completed a few factors such as sustainable intensification, changing food markets, diets shifts and rises of supermarkets are aspects that are steering towards scaling agriculture driven development.

 A business model was developed that would provide business services to the telephone farmers in a more eco-system driven approach whereby a training center needs to work together with other specialized service providers.

“One of the developments that worked very well was introducing a business-eco-system approach to the farmers.” – Peter Muthee, Managing Director at Latia Resource Center

Today there are over a 100 farmers receiving the business support services that have been developed through the project. The project has made a contribution to connecting and linking the farmers to markets to sell their products but also to markets for input and technology.

“For me one of the main areas that improved through the project was labor management. Before I would run the farm with 5 or 6 workers. Now I can do it with 2 workers who are able to do most of the work.” – Alex Muinde, Gladocel Farm

The government provided the funding to a consortium of companies who are responsible for implementing the project. Maastricht School of Management was the project manager of this project where they worked together with AeresStrathmore Business School, The Netherlands African Business Council and Latia (local project manager).

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