Mon, 25 Jan 2021

A lady sorts out coffee berries in Mathira, Nyeri County, Kenya, on Nov. 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Fred Mutune)

The advent of online marketplaces where farmers are selling their produce is eliminating many of the challenges for rural farmers, in particular access to quality market.

NAIROBI, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Poor road network and lack of transport and quality market are among challenges farmers in rural Kenya have grappled with for years, making agriculture less profitable though it is the source of livelihoods for millions in the countryside.

These challenges had pushed many people to farm closer to urban areas like Nairobi where they can easily access good market and the road network is better.

However, the advent of online marketplaces where farmers are selling their produce is eliminating many of the challenges for rural farmers, in particular access to quality market.

The online marketplaces have taken market closer to the rural farmers, giving many an opportunity to sell their products for as many as those in urban areas do.

The rural farmers thus do not have to struggle to take their produce to market centers daily in search of potential buyers.

All that majority of the farmers are now doing is to post their produce on the online sites weeks before harvest then wait for buyers to contact them.

The produce is then harvested once the buyer is found, saving farmers' costs associated with transport, storage and searching for market.

"Yes, online marketplaces are empowering rural farmers. They have brought the market closer. It is now easier to sell produce than it was before," James Kuria, a young strawberry farmer in Nyandarua County in central Kenya, said Saturday.

Kuria observed that the online sites have somehow levelled the playing field for both rural and urban farmers when it comes to marketing produce.

"When I post my produce on the site, one cannot differentiate that these are grown in urban or rural areas. What matters is the price and the quality," said farmer.

A look at Mkulima Young, a leading agricultural online marketplaces in Kenya, one can find dozens of rural farmers who have embraced digital sales.

"Very sweet and great quality watermelons readily available for sale in Migori," one farmer from the area in western Kenya writes.

"Three acres of maize for sale in Lugari, Kakamega County. Buy and harvest," Another farmer writes, with the message accompanied with a photo of the produce.

Joseph Macharia, the founder of Mkulima Young, said farmers have realized that online sales are flexible, save time and other resources and are not affected by things like weather.

"We have seen increased usage of digital platforms for marketing and advertising agricultural products. With the emerging new typology of farmers who are more digital, e-commerce is taking root across the country," said Macharia.

Macharia said that increased usage of the online marketplaces by rural producers demystifies the myth that digital sales are out of reach for rural farmers.

Out of necessity, according to him, farmers are embracing them to eliminate barriers they are experiencing.

"Online platforms are solving marketing challenges in real-time. In our case, we have noted an increase in number of users during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Macharia.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solutions, a software development start-up in Nairobi, said the game-changer in adoption of online marketing for farmers is the smartphone.

"Widespread use of smartphones has brought the new opportunities in online marketing for farmers. Farmers are realizing that they don't need to invest additional resources to market their produce online which is making them embrace the new mode of selling," said Mwaso.

According to him, information and communication technology is helping rural farmers break market barriers.

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