M-shamba is an interactive platform that enables farmers to access important information on crop production, helps them manage their farms as well as linking them to the market using mobile application, SMS and web.
TechMoran caught up with Okello and this is what he had in store for us.
What was the inspiration behind the M-Shamba Idea, how it began, and what did it take for you to get where you are now?
M-shamba was inspired by the fact that there is a lot of useful information in the archives of agricultural research institutions, which do not easily reach the common smallholder farmer. The information available is usually very expensive to disseminate through seminars and conferences, which many are not able to attend.
M-shamba was also inspired by the fact that various agricultural commodity prices usually differ by high margins within a radius of about 50 kilometres. This means that the middlemen would exploit the farmers by giving them very low prices on their commodity and ending up selling the same commodities to make abnormal profits.
M-shamba begun as an android app back in 2011 but has now been further developed to include SMS and web platforms. What has kept us moving is resilience and the desire to make things work better in the society.
What were you doing before M-Shamba?
Before M-shamba, I was a student at JKUAT studying Bsc Biomechanical and Processing Engineering
How successful are you in the business? Is there competition? And how do you face them
So far, M-shamba has been used to help over 4,000 farmers to adopt system rice intensification in parts of Mwea, Ahero, Bunyala and West Kano. Meanwhile, we are also doing a pilot on some other components of M-shamba, which we believe will be very beneficial to the Kenyan farmer.
M-shamba received an award by H.E President Mwai Kibaki during the African Forum on STI as one of the top innovations in 2012, M-shamba was also the best innovation during the Innovate For Africa enterprise competition and again it was the best app in agriculture category during the Safaricom Appstar Challenge, 2012.
There is competition but our main advantage is innovation. Our products are very much innovative and very user friendly targeting the very common person in the agricultural value chain.
How is the response in your market, and who is your most important client?
The response has been very great. The challenge is that we have not been able to expand in order to meet the expectations of our potential clients. Our most important client is the small holder in urban and rural areas and various traders along the agricultural value chain.
Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along, or did it happen by chance?
Yes. I knew entrepreneurship was my calling and my engineering background works well for me because I look at things from value-addition point of view.
What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur?
What I love most is the fact that my business has the potential to change lives and to accelerate the achievement of first millennium development goal (MDG1) and Kenya’s Vision 2030.
What keeps you and your team motivated?
What keeps us motivated is the fact that we have a common goal and the belief that our product has a lot of potential in transforming the food insecurity situation in Kenya and make Kenya very food secure.
What can your team not live without?
We can’t live without coming up with new ideas and solutions. We are great thinkers and we like it.
Is there a specific skill one needs to join you, if yes what is it
No, there is no specific skill only be passionate.
What does M-Shamba have in store for the future?
We have a lot in store for the future. We have a nutrition component of M-shamba that we will launch once we secure the right partnerships. This will just be revolutionary. We also have other amazing complimentary products that we want to bring to the market. Farming and agribusiness will not be the same again in this country. We are determined to make agriculture enterprising for everyone.
Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
There have been very many influential people in my life especially from the JKUAT community.
What advice would you give to any person who wants to follow your example?
Resilience is everything. Never let your idea die in your hands, someone else will pick it up and grow it.