Commercial agribusiness projects command huge capital investment. Indeed, this can be a barrier to young people who want to venture into farming. For a country like Kenya, where up to 39% of youth are unemployed and the costs of land and farm inputs are high, succeeding in agribusiness can be a challenge especially for young people who have no direct access to loans from banks. Thanks to the digital technology that has enabled Safaricom PLC to come to the rescue of farmers in Kenya through its new DigiFarm.
What is Safaricom’s DigiFarm?
DigiFarm is an integrated mobile platform geared toward helping small-scale farmers with accessing agri-loans, farm inputs, education, access to market, insurance cover, and other essential, value-added services that are necessary to boost agricultural production. Safaricom created the technology in collaboration with agribusiness enterprises like Mercy Corps AgriFin and mobile solution providers, mainly, Mezzanine. The goal of Safaricom’s DigiFarm is to improve farm production, incomes, savings, ad profitability by making digitally-powered financial and non-financial services directly accessible to smallholder farmers.
Registration to DigiFarm
Now, having known what Safaricom’s DigiFarm is, the next thing you might be wondering about is how to get started with this technology so you can get its huge benefits that thousands of Kenyan farmers are already enjoying. I will explain these benefits later in this article, but before I do that, I want to take you through the DigiFarm process. Knowing how to register to Safaricom DigiFarm is important because to enjoy any benefits from the platform, you must first off, become a member. So, how then do you register to Safaricom DigiFarm? The following is a summary of the DigiFarm registration procedure. You can register in two ways as I explain below
The first way in which you can register to Safaricom DigiFarm is through the DigiFarm App. All you need to do is to download the application from Google Play Store by clicking this link. Once you have installed and opened the DigiFarm App, you will see, on your scree, the instructions to follow to complete the registration process.
You can also register to DigiFarm directly from your phone without having to download the DigiFarm App. Here are the steps to follow
- Dial *944#
- Accept the Terms and Conditions
- Complete the registration by following the steps on your screen.
Note: You’ll need the following information to finish the registration
- Your ID Number
- Location details: sub-county, county, and ward.
- Land details: Your size of land
What Next After Registering to DigiFarm?
Once you complete the registration process, Safaricom will send you an SMS containing your DigiFarm Farmer Number. Your DigiFarm Farmer Number uniquely identifies you as a registered member of the DigiFarm program. It is this number that you will use to access DigiFarm services including redeeming loan vouchers. If for some reason, you lose or do not know your DigiFarm number, there are two ways you can easily determine it.
How to get your DigiFarm Farmer Number from the DigiFarm App
- Open the DigiFarm app
- From the home screen, access the navigation bar
- Select ‘My Profile’
- On your profile page, you will find your farmer number
How to get your DigiFarm Farmer Number by Dialing *944#
*944# is the number to dial to access DigiFarm services. You can use it to get your DigiFarmer Farmer Number, follow the steps below
- Dial *944#
- Go to ‘My Profile’
- Go to ‘Farmer Details’
Safaricom will then send you an SMS with your DigiFarm Number.
Benefits of DigiFarm to Registered Farmers
#1: Access to Inputs
Once you become a DigiFarm registered member, you’ll begin to enjoy the benefits of this amazing farmers’ program. And when talking about the advantages of DigiFarm, it is makes sense to begin by mentioning the fact that this digital platform allows contracted farmers to access farm inputs at affordable prices. The DigiFarm’s discounted farm inputs are available from DigiFarm Master Agents. So, you only need to identify and visit your nearest agent with your National ID and DigiFarm Farmer Number. In the sections that follow, I will be defining what a DigiFarm Master Agent and DigiFarm Farmer Number are. Meanwhile, let me mention that DigiFarm offers different types of inputs at the DigiFarm Master Agent: feeds, seeds, fertilizer, agro-chemicals, veterinary products, and mineral supplements for dairy and livestock.
Unfortunately, DigiFarm inputs are not free, but paid for at discounted prices. Therefore, as a registered farmer, you need to know how to pay for your inputs. There are different payment procedures for contracted and non-contracted farmers as I’ll explain below:
- Non contracted farmers –Even if you are not a contracted farmer, it is still possible to access Safaricom DigiFarm inputs. To do that, you will make cash payments for the inputs. The payment is done through Safaricom’s Lipa Na M-Pesa. The till number that will be provided to you by the Master Agent you’re buying from.
- Contracted farmers –Contracted farmers can pay for DigiFarm farm inputs by redeeming the e-voucher issued by DigiFarm once their loan application is approved. To redeem your e-voucher and collect farm inputs, you should present the voucher to the DigiFarm Master Agent within 60 days of receiving it.
#2: Learn For Free
Another remarkable benefit of joining DigiFarm comes from the educational services Safaricom offers through the platform. Through DigiFarm, Safaricom allows farmers to access valuable information on crops and livestock. The beautiful part of it is that all educational services are free. DigiFarm Learning aims to enlighten farmers on the best farming practices, which will subsequently optimize their farm productivity. So, how do you really access DigiFarm learning materials and contents? There are two ways
If you have DigiFarm App installed on your mobile phone, just follow the following two steps
- Open the application
- From the home screen, select “Learn Module”
If you do not have the application installed on your mobile phone, access the learning module by following the steps below
- Dial *944#
- Select “Learn”
- Select your preferred content from the list provided
You will receive an SMS with the learning content you requested for.
- Crop training: DigiFarm allows you to learn how to use “farming best practices” including the proper use of fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides to improve your crop yield.
- Dairy Farming: With DigiFarm learning, you will be able to discover how to increase milk production and reduce costs by following best practices in Health management, Breeding, milk handling, Housing, Record Keeping, and Feeding as well as milk production.
- Poultry Farming: DigiFarm Poultry Farming learning module educates farmers on ways to keep improved kienyeji chicken for agribusiness: On this topic, you’ll learn about chick rearing, pests and diseases, feeding, breeding, health, vaccination, farmer group, and housing.
- Financial education: DigiFarm Learning also educational content on ways to manage your money. In this module, you’ll cover topics on savings and borrowing.
- DigiFarm Loan Training: DigiFarm training includes education on how to access or quality for DigiFarm loan services.
#3: Get Access to DigiFarm Loans
DigiFarm allows farmers to access farming loan. Registered farmers can redeem their credit vouchers and receive farm inputs such as fertilizers, feeds, and seeds. As I mentioned before, DigiFarm farm inputs are available from DigiFarm Master Agent. I the next paragraph, I describe Mavuno loan, which is the main type of loan provided by DigiFarm.
Mavuno Loan (value-chain based loan): Mavuno loan is meant to support farming activities. It is linked to the size of land and the crop (or value chain) under cultivation. This loan caters for farm inputs in the form of fertilizers and pesticides.
DigiFarm’s Mavuno Loan
With DigiFarm Mavuno loans, the farmer can get farm inputs at the beginning of the season. DigiFarm allows farmers to repay their Mavuno loan in two ways. The first option is pay bit by bit as the season progresses. Alternatively, you can repay your Mavuno loan at the end of the season. Although this second option allows the loanee to use their farm produce to repay the loan, it is not a recommended approach repaying Mavuno because of the potential difficulty with repaying the loan once especially if the harvest is not as was projected by the farmer.
Safaricom advises farmers to repay their loans little by little through the season then clear the balance after selling the produce at the end of the season. However, before you take the DigiFarm Mavuno loan, the first question you probably need to ask yourself is: How much will I receive as loan and how much will I repay?
Well, the amount of loan you can get from DigiFarm as Mavuno loan is dictated by the input package you’ll need per crop per acre. A monthly charge of 1.83% is charged as facilitation fee. The fee is bundled with 15% insurance cover.
What is DigiFarm Mavuno loan insurance cover?
This is an insurance that provides protection to farmers’ crops. If you are a beneficiary of DigiFarm Mavuno loans, this insurance cover should be good news to you because it will cover your crops from excess rainfall, draught, and other natural calamities that could cause loses. It comes with
- Free Life Assurance Cost with 50,000/- funeral benefit (last expense –that should not exceed the loan amount) to the main member.
- Credit Life Cost at 0.05% of sum assured with a benefit of 100% loan upon permanent total Disability or Death of the main member.
How do you qualify for DigiFarm loan?
To qualify for DigiFarm Mavuno loan, you must meet the following two conditions
- You must have accepted DigiFarm’s Terms & Conditions
- You must be a DigiFarm contracted farmer
How is Mavuno loan amount determined?
To know the amount of loan a farmer can get from DigiFarm as Mavuno loan, you need to approach your DigiFarm Village Adviser or Master Agent. However, in general, two main factors determine the amount of Mavuno loan a farmer can get:
- The size of land on which the farmer will be farming
- The input mix for the specific crop or value chain
If you would like to apply for DigiFarm Mavuno loan, check my article How to Apply for DigiFarm Loan for guidance on the application procedure. If you already have the loan and wondering how to repay, my other article on How to Repay Your DigiFarm Loan will help you.
#4: Marketing and Other Services
At times, marketing farm produce can be a big challenge especially for farmers located in remote, rural areas with poor road networks. If you are such a farmer, DigiFarm finds you the solution. You only need to become a DigiFarm registered farmer to access market services and sell your farm produce at competitive rates. Moreover, Safaricom not only provides farm inputs to DigiFarm registered farmers, but also offers to buy their farm produce after harvesting. Also, as a registered farmer, you do not have to pay anything to access or benefit from Safaricom DigiFarm. The platform makes all the services available to you for free!
More About DigiFarm
As I wrap up this article, I want us to look at what DigiFarm Master Agent. Safaricom depends on people called “agents” to reach out to farmers. These agents are also referred to as “DigiFarm Master Agent (DMA) or Village Agents. They are DigiFarm’s local agents that deliver DigiFarm products and services to farmers at their local settings. You can think of a DMA as a DigiFarm’s service center.
These agents help farmers to access DigiFarm’s farm inputs and loans. They also provide farmers will technical assistance by answering the farmer’s questions on crops and livestock especially those under the DigiFarm program. Additionally, DMAs assist farmers with advice on loan repayment.
Therefore, it is highly important for all registered DigiFarm farmers to know their nearest DigiFarm Master Agents. So, how can you know who is your nearest DigiFarm Master Agent? There are two ways you can use:
If you already have the DigiFarm app installed on your smartphone, just open the application and on the home screen, select “Find a Master Agent.” The app will request you to “allow location services,” which will allow DigiFarm to automatically scan the area and find the DMA that’s closest to you. Alternatively, you can search your nearest DMA by location using “All Master Agents” tab on the home screen.
You can also find your closest agent by dialing *944# and selecting “Buy Inputs” followed by “Find Nearest Master Agent.” A text message containing your nearest DMA will be sent to your mobile phone.